Over the last 24 months, I’ve traveled on average 2 x per month for both business and personal. I’ve learned a couple of things along the way, mostly from what I wasn’t doing at the beginning. Now that travel is part of my work, it’s important to keep my self-care up even while I’m traveling. I’ve reviewed many articles on the affects of travel, changing time zones, challenges with sleep while on the road, and the general stress of moving from one city to another as something that can be a trigger for those of us who manage a mental health illness. Any change ( in schedule or routine) or stress can affect our brain. Ensuring we have structures in place to support our lifestyle is important. There are a number of things we can do to take care of our mental health while traveling. I’ve also included some options for our general health.
When I first started traveling two years ago, I didn’t do any self-care. In fact, each time I traveled, I related to it like it was a mini vacation from my self-care regime I did at home. Things like staying up late and watching unhealthy tv, to the point where I’d be messing with my sleep and then not being at my best for the next days meetings. I’d also mess with my food, consuming anything I wanted and ignoring the side effects. Somehow I thought Swedish Berries wouldn’t affect me….Sugar is sugar no matter where you ingest it.
With all the travel and additional stress from not eating well, sleeping well or doing any exercise, it caught up with me. I noticed I was gaining weight, I had little to no patience with others, my family was my own personal punching bag, my physical health was deteriorating, and I was experiencing constant pain. Part of the challenge was my behaviour was in my blind spot. Only after taking the time to reflect on the source of my physical pain did I see the need for a consistent self-care plan while I was traveling.
Fast forward to today, I’ve realized the critical self-care elements needed to support healthy choices while on the road. Some of my best self-care travel strategies are below:
- Keep Hydrated: Flying dehydrates the body. An easy solution: Bring a metal water container. Make sure it’s filled up at all times except when going through airport security 😄
- Keep Warm: Temperatures vary from airport to hotel. Bring a scarf for plane ride, you’ll be glad you did.
- What’s your favourite “chilling or calming” music? I have a playlist that goes with me everywhere and when I need to focus or just relax this is a helpful go to.
- Bring runners or good walking shoes. Making sure you have access to walking in comfortable goes a long way to decrease stress, get the muscles moving ( especially after a long flight) Walking in the morning is one of my go to self-care activities and if I don’t have my runners I won’t do it.
- Get outside each day and breathe in the fresh air. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes. This can shift or elevate your mood easily. If you can consciously do this, stress levels will decrease.
- When we travel especially by plane or on a long train or car ride our hip mussels get tight. Getting in a good stretch before flying and certainly after is very good for the body. Your IT band, hips flexors, hamstrings, gluts, and quads will thank you!!!
- Fly mid day to avoid the rush ( both traffic and other business travelers doing same day flights)
- When flying use the function on the tv screen to turn it off, even if up don’t use the in flight programming, having the screened turned off will help you relax. Less distracting
- Use the flying time to work on passion projects. For me that’s writing blogs, thriving in the workplace newsletters, creating additional options for the MH Sherpa website. Always check in with how tired you are and how your body feels, if needed use the time to sleep, meditate or just relax with your favourite playlist.
- Always get a seat on the aisle so access to the washroom and getting up is easy. Make sure to stretch the legs and hips as much as possible.
- Book down time while away. This may be a challenge, I know it certainly was when I first began my out of province project. Try to create down time during your day. If the whole day is filled with business meetings, you will likely need down time when you get home. Look at it from the perspective that when you are at home, your schedule has down time, (time with family, taking a break from work) This is and was a hard lesson for me to learn and implement.
- If possible walk to restaurants, cafes, and your meetings etc.
- Use meditation practice before bed and 1st thing in the am before work. It maybe the only time to do get this done. Even 5 minutes will make a difference.
- Limit use of TV, especially if you have a schedule or routine at home, try to stick to it as much as possible. e.g.. My sleep schedule is in bed by 930 and up by 6 am.
- Plan ahead as much as possible where and when your food will be taken care of. It’s often the hardest as it’s so unpredictable especially when traveling to a new city.
If you know me, you will know that I always have a selection of essential oils with me when I travel.
Having a section of oils on hand really helps. I use small 2 ml bottles for each of these:
- Anxiety BeGone Oil blend: it’s often in my necklace defuser that I wear when I travel. It’s a blend of DoTERRA Serenity and DoTERRA Balance. I use this oil when the plane is taking off and landing. Any amount of turbulence can shift my thinking to disaster remunerating and the Anxiety BeGone blend is the easiest way to interrupt that kind of thinking.
- On Guard – total immunity booster and hand sanitizer. It is great option to defuse in your hotel room to remove any air toxins.
- Breath Blend ( Easy Air) is a wonderful oil to help with any kind of congestion or just a pick me up to be breathing deeper. DoTERRA offers this oil it in a cough drop form as well and you will always find them in my purse and carry on. So easy and effective!
- Peppermint, when I get hot or feel any pain in my body, this is the oil I use.
- Zengest Oil Blend – with the unpredictableness of food when traveling, having some Zengest on hand goes a long way. A great oil to help with any tummy problems or if some food you have eaten isn’t sitting well.
- Tea Tree and Oregano oil – this perfect blend is always in my purse to guard against sickness. If I feel a tickle in my throat or an overall body ache its a great natural way to combat infection fast and naturally.
- Lavender – I’ve talked a lot about Lavender in the past. I don’t leave home without it. It helps with a good nights rest. Travelling can have you sleeping in different beds and Lavender can be a great support for a good nights rest.
If you have any travel self-care strategies please share them below. I’m sure there are others that would make it easier and I’d love to hear from you about what you do.