Having spent a fair bit of time travelling this month and working with other fellow business travelers, a popular theme in our discussions was, “What impact does travel have on my ability to sustain energy?” It is a question well worth some consideration.
Crossing through the air (at rapid speeds) to new locations is something our bodies have had to do only in recent history. Prior that we took many weeks or months to cross time zones and borders and that gave us a chance to acclimate to where we were arriving. Now, in less than a day we can get nearly anywhere in the world. Our bodies however take time to adjust to where we are heading and the repercussions can be heavy, especially on our energy.
Physically we go through a lot of challenges and often we experience symptoms like an upset stomach, or cold-like signs. Our body’s ability to continue to digest well can be interrupted by strange eating times and of course our sleep goes way out the window. So what can we do to mitigate these impacts and become an energy-conscious traveler?
The best things we can do for our body to recalibrate are to keep things simple:
- Hydrate – drink lots of water in the days leading up to your flight (and if you can bear it, some aloe vera juice helps too). Hydrate through the whole flight (take your own big water so you don’t have to ask for one) and keep hydrating while you are on your trip. Hydration also means avoiding dehydrating foods too, so limit the salt and alcohol intake wherever you can.
- Eat little and simply – one of the hardest things we face on planes can be boredom. If you are a long-haul traveler, eating is a great way to pass the time. However, eating at times that are out of sync with your body clock can wreak havoc. Try to eat before you fly and if you have to eat on board, keep it light and healthy. Your body will thank you.
- Move and rest – two opposing ideas, but where you can, get rest on the flights. Use the time to let your body relax. On longer plane rides, rest, but make sure you also get movement. Small but regular movement of your hands and feet helps with blood flow, and a short walk around the plane helps you to avoid hip tension and back pain (among other things).
- Sleep – rest is hugely important to ensuring cognitive energy as well. Sleep on the plane if possible, or work to get into a regular sleep pattern as soon as you can when you arrive.
- All the physical elements – all three of the physical suggestions above will support your cognitive recovery, ability to think clearly and stay energised.
- Work to your pace – know your pace well (and ask us more about it if you don’t) so that you can align your work patterns to a rate that will support your energy. Take regular breaks as you are working to recover your energy. It’s easy to work intensively when you’re on a work trip.
- Find a rhythm – Both on the work trip and when back home, find a rhythm that works for you. Know what morning and evening routine works for you, what food supports you and do your best to keep those things in alignment while you’re moving around.
Our energy is naturally exhausted when we are outside of familiar places or visiting new environments. Cognitively our brain has a lot more to take in, and just like a small baby who becomes exhausted from over-stimulating new environments, so too will adults. Be conscious of how many more energy credits it takes to travel and invest more in restoring those credits consciously. The smallest commitments make the biggest difference!
Why not jump on our 20:20 monthly live Linked In calls to share and hear some ideas on how neuroscience can give you a clearer view of leadership?