Traveling for work can be hard on your health in a number of ways.
Because of the wear and tear on your body, the exposure to germs in airports, the unfamiliar beds, and the stress and overwhelm of always being on the road, self-care is more important than ever.
Here are a few tips that will help you stay calm and well while you’re on the go.
Breathe: Another flight cancelled? Lost baggage? Deal with travel stress by breathing mindfully. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths: inhale, pause for a few seconds, and then exhale out any frustration and anger.
You can also try “three-part breath.” Place one hand on your belly and the other in the center of your chest. On the first part of your inhale, let your belly expand into your hand. Then let the breath continue upward to fill your ribs, then chest. Exhale slowly, deflating your chest, ribs, and belly.
Plan Ahead for Healthy Eating: Scope out the menu before heading to a restaurant. Order first so you won’t be tempted to change your order based on what someone else is going to eat.
If you are on your own for a meal, research restaurants with healthy choices, or pick up a healthy salad or snack at a local natural foods store, farmers’ market, or grocery store.
Drink: Make it water, not alcohol. Especially on days that you are flying (which is dehydrating), but really every day, drink plenty of water.
If you are in a work environment where business is conducted at a bar or over drinks, ask for water with a slice of lime, or ask for water in a martini glass and sip that.
Travel with Exercise Gear: It’s no fun when you want to exercise but don’t have the right clothes with you. At a minimum, bring walking shoes and try to get a decent walk in every day—even if it’s around the hotel parking lot or in a shopping mall. Walking shoes also come in handy when you have to sprint to make your connection at the airport.
Practice Mindful Travel: Practice mindfulness when you’re driving. Turn the radio off, put your phone away, and enjoy the feeling of the steering wheel beneath your hands and the view ahead.
Notice your thoughts and body. Do you tense your stomach muscles when you’re stuck in traffic? Do your eyebrows squeeze together when you’re running late? Even just a short stretch of mindfulness can make a big impact.
Find Time for Quiet: Carve out time each day to be still. Even if it’s only a few minutes at a quieter part of the airport or on a bench in the city, give yourself a chance to slow down and savor the feeling of being alive and present. If your mind needs something to do, focus on the movement of your breath, or the sound of the birds.
Stretch: When traveling, your hips and low back take the brunt of pain and stiffness.
Try this stretch while you’re sitting on the plane or waiting at the airport: Cross your right ankle over your left knee, and let your right knee open out to the side. Next, inhale and lengthen your spine. Keep your back long and gently fold forward over your legs as you exhale. Stay here for five slow breaths before switching sides.
Combat Jet Lag: Travel with earplugs to drown out city noise at the hotel and try to get into bed at the same time as you would at home. If you struggle with falling asleep, avoid caffeine after noon and turn off electronics a few hours before turning out the light.
Try a yoga pose called “legs up the wall” to calm your body and mind for bedtime. Sit on the ground or the bed with your hips touching the wall. Swing both legs up to rest against the wall, and lie back to relax deeply into the pose for five or more minutes.
Practice Self-Care and Have Fun—work travel can be stressful, but it can also be a great opportunity to see new places.
It might also be chance to unplug from the responsibilities of your home life and relax. Find time for your favorite self-care activities while you’re on the road; your health is worth it.
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Editor: Emma Ruffin
Photo: Thomas Huang/Flickr