This is the second installment of a planned series on staying healthy on the road. We’ll focus on several areas, such as prevention, eating better at the airport and, in this post, reducing stress during travel.
Stress: (noun) An organism’s total response to an environmental condition or stimulus; typically describes a negative condition that can have an impact on mental and physical well-being.
It’s ironic: we take a vacation to escape the stress of work and life, and then stress over travel arrangements, long lines, and perfect plans not going perfectly threatens our vacation with frazzled nerves, splitting headaches, nausea and worse. Even simple things like changes in time zones and climates quietly add to your stress levels. When stress builds up, you’ll be more fatigued and get fatigued more easily, and sleep and digestion issues are compounded. To make matters worse, stress lowers your body’s defenses at a time when exposure may be at its highest. Luckily, there are some easy things you can do frequently to help de-stress during your travels.
#1: Eat Healthy. Not always easy to do while traveling. If the airport food doesn’t get you, culinary adventures just might! By no means would I suggest skipping the chance to try new foods, indulge your sweet tooth a bit, or dazzle your palate at a marquee venue! However, it wouldn’t hurt to stop at the next farmer’s market you see and stock up on some produce. Drink plenty of water and juices (bottled, if you don’t trust the local stuff), and try to stick with fish and lean meats whenever you can. By staying hydrated, cutting down on sugars and eating small, balanced portions, you’ll feel nimble and energetic for the long road ahead.
#2: Get proper sleep. Many people struggle with sleep when traveling, but it is important to stick with your sleep routine when away from home. Every road warrior has a different way to battle jet lag – for me, a nap and some exercise generally do the trick. Once your body has adjusted, you can compensate for early mornings or late nights with a nap when needed. I also try to “stay in my time zone” when traveling domestically, meaning go to bed and get up on the same schedule as home. This technique works best when traveling west for short periods. For example: If you live on the East Coast and are visiting California, 6am Eastern is 3am Pacific. You can sleep in an hour and take advantage of the “early” morning to knock out some work or get in a workout. By the time the locals awaken, you’re ready to go! Of course, you’ll also be ready for bed shortly after dinner but, if you’re staying for a while, you can adjust a little each day and stay up a bit later.
#3: Get proper exercise. Yes, a five mile walk through Disneyland counts! No, a lap around the buffet table does not. At home or away, regular exercise is one of the very best ways to beat stress, and it has great side benefits, such as greater stamina, better immunity, and lower risk of all those things stress contributes to. It’s best to get into a gym, but any exercise helps, especially if you’re spending a lot of time in planes, trains, and automobiles. When you get to the hotel, try one our favorite travel workouts:
#4: Meditation. The simple act of meditating can work wonders by clearing your mind, and focusing your energy and attention. It can be something as simple as closing your eyes and breathing deeply for just a few minutes. When you have more time and space, try lying down with one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Breathe into your diaphragm slowly (to a count of four) and feel your stomach rise. Hold your breath for a second and then exhale, just as slowly. You can close your eyes and think about pleasant things, or try focusing on a point above you while concentrating on your breathing. It may take a few breaths to shed the stress you’ve been carrying, but you should soon feel refreshed and relaxed.
#5: Have a Leisure Activity. This one is more geared towards life in general: doing something you enjoy, even while on the go, can be a great stress relief. Whether it’s a round of golf, a bit of cross-stitch, reading or running…whatever! Find a hobby that you can pack up and take with you. Just be sure it’s not something that will require too much attention, which could end up causing more stress than it relieves. For me, it’s reading about travel…even while I’m traveling!
Bonus Tip! Find a pet store. For many people, there is something magical and therapeutic about cats and dogs. Interacting with them has been proven to relieve stress (in people without a fear of the animals), and there’s a bit of relaxing reassurance in finding something that’s just the same as it is “back home.” The soft fur, the gentle purr, the warmth of another living being – they work magic, even on a frazzled traveler far from home.
Feedback: When you’ve been blind-sided by stress on the road, how did you work it out? What are your top tips to stay healthy while traveling? How do you keep your stamina up and “down time” down? Please share your advice in a comment!
Photo: David Castillo Dominici | FreeDigitalPhotos.net