Travel is exciting and often something to look forward to!
However, for many it is anxiety-inducing as it results in a disruption of routine and often an exacerbation of physical pain.
Education and preparation are key for enhancing your travel experience to allow you the freedom to explore without the fear of falling back on your health. Here are some suggestions for maintaining wellness during your travel experience.
Sleep & travel wellness
Sleep might be the golden pillar of wellness.
When we are well rested, many of the other aspects of health are thriving too. So, how do we maintain good sleep quality when we are not in our usual environment?
One simple suggestion is to bring some of your comfort items with you, if possible. The top contributor to neck discomfort when it comes to sleep is improper pillow fit, so if you’ve got one that works for you at home and you can bring it, do so! You can also pack a neck pillow for the plane or ask for extra pillows at the hotel to help you maintain proper neck support while away.
Packing a portable white noise machine is also conducive to a good night’s sleep. Having this background noise can help distract you from other unfamiliar sounds in your new environment and keep your mind more at ease.
In general, you may just need to put a little extra leg work into your winding-down routine. Make sleep a top priority, and in doing so take all the necessary steps to set yourself up for success. Put your phone away, take a shower, change into some comfy clothes, turn down the lights, and maybe read a little. Do whatever it is that makes you feel relaxed at home, so you can prepare your body and mind for rest in a new place.
Movement & travel wellness
What better way to promote good sleep than to make sure your body feels good and you’re spending enough energy during the day!
An increase in neck or back pain is one of the top sources of anxiety related to travel, so it is essential to travel with tools to combat this. One of the reasons this tends to be such a challenge is prolonged sitting in a car, on a plane, or in meetings. My top recommendation is to make sure you are not sustaining 1 position for more than 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy! Just stand up from your chair and walk around, do a few neck stretches, or take a few intentional, deep breaths periodically throughout the day to prevent stiffness and pain related to sustained positions.
It’s also important to make movement a part of your daily plan. If you can walk or take the stairs instead of an elevator, try that. If there’s a break between plans and you can do some of your rehab exercises, don’t skip them! It’ll pay off in the long run when you are better able to enjoy your trip because you feel good.
(For an individualized assessment of your sitting, standing and/or sleeping posture, see a physical therapist!)
Nutrition & travel wellness
I don’t know about you, but I can feel it in my body when I haven’t been eating my usual foods. I start to crave my familiar meals and nutrients. That’s why I’ve learned to pack snacks wherever I go!
It’s much more satisfying to eat something I know nourishes my body over another fast-food pit stop (which is fine every now and then!). If you’ve noticed you feel more sluggish eating out, try bringing what you can or stop by a grocery store at your destination. I try to find hotel rooms with a refrigerator in the room to store foods from the store. You can also plan ahead and research what restaurants and grocery stores will be near you and prepare yourself for what kind of meals you may be having.
Mindfulness & travel wellness
Reduce anxiety related to travel and an altered routine by taking some dedicated time for mindfulness while away.
Plan for ways to stay centered – whether that’s meditation, intentional deep breaths, yoga, journaling, or movement. This is almost more important to do when you are out of your typical daily habits in order to maintain a sense of stability and calm in a different environment. The importance of mental exercise should be emphasized just as much as physical as a means of feeling fully well and better able to tackle your day!