It is that time of year again when suitcases come out, abnormal diets become far too normal and we all go home to those we hold most dear. It is probably the hardest time of year to be your healthiest self. In honor of my upcoming travel I thought I would talk to you about some self-care strategies I have developed over the years.
Before I met my husband I used to be a very nervous traveler. He is a very casual traveler, in fact, very often too casual. He taught me to be so relaxed while traveling that for a long time until I stepped up my game we were getting called to the gate at nearly every flight, meaning that everyone on the plane was waiting for us. The final straw was flying home from a wedding with some of his family and hearing the litany over the loudspeakers of some poor flight attendant say “Passengers Wulsin, Wulsin, Wulsin, Wulsin, and Hill please report to Gate B11.” I realized being a bit too laid back wasn’t helping us and was increasing the likelihood of us getting stranded in some hub city far away from Northampton.
In fact, self care around travel is really about honoring what you can put up with and what you can’t. Being honest and upfront about your needs or offering a solution of how you might honor those needs, will in the long run, make you a friendlier guest or host. The same rules you live by at home may be bent or altered while you travel, but if anything feels non-negotiable, you’d better plan ahead.
Here are the places things normal go off kilter this time of year.
- Diet: In my opinion there are now three types of people in this world: people who understand food sensitivities and accommodate, people who don’t really get it at all but do their best and people who are so clueless it is probably not safe to trust their well-meaning intentions. All three groups of people probably love you to the same amount, they just have different backgrounds and experiences with alternative cooking techniques. Strategies like eating before parties, bringing food to events that are safe for your consumption and hosting are great ways of being responsible for your own digestion and staying well fed over the holidays. Stay tuned for next week’s post about how to eat healthy while on the road.
- Sleeping conditions: I spent the first 25 years of my life not really being able to sleep outside of my own bed. It is getting better now, but for the most part I do my best not to subject myself to a bad sleeping arrangement. I haven’t slept on a blow up mattress in years and I will very often bring in not just pillows, but sometimes extra blankets because I worry about getting cold at night. Yes, it is embarrassing, really mortifying, but if it means I am a friendly person the next day and I have more fun it is worth it. If you are considering a hotel, spend extra time reading reviews before booking a room. Look for reviews that talk about how comfortable the bed is and how noise travels. I’ve stayed in very fancy, expensive hotels that you could hear conversations and snoring between the rooms. Price is not necessarily an indicator of sound quality.
- Exercise: Exercise is crucial to keep the qi moving. Being in close proximity to people you love for an extended period of time can be taxing. Daily walks or solitary morning yoga can help you stay grounded and sane. I try to research yoga classes before I travel or find a hotel with an indoor pool where I can swim laps or use a treadmill in the morning. Even a half hour of exercise a few times during a trip is a game changer.
- Bowel movements: It so strange to me how some people don’t understand why they stop having bowel movements on the first few days of a trip. Think about the last time you took a trip. You probably woke up at a different time of day, eat different kinds of food, hydrated in a different way than normal, experienced some level of an increase in stress, exercised less or in a different way and had less flexibility and less access to a bathroom than normal and probably sat for a long time while getting there. Travel is disruptive, regardless of how lovely and relaxing it can be. I always tell patients with a history of constipation to be pleasantly surprised if they can have normal bowel movements while traveling and to be gentle and respectful of their bodies if they don’t. Here are some great tips to stay regular while traveling.
- Alone time versus together time: The introvert in me is exhausted by the holidays. I am the type of introvert that loves spending time with my families and friends so much that I do so with abandon and end up furious at them and grumpy. My instinct is to spend as much quality time together as possible, but I have learned that it isn’t a good idea. Rest and alone time make me a nicer person and leave me satisfied and healthy when I return home. My husband on the other hand stores energy from family gatherings to bring home with him. Being around people he receives energy and gets healthier and more vibrant because of all the quality time together. First figure out what the right balance is for you and then start to honor it. It will change the way you return from your trips and the way you remember them.