Without proper upkeep, frequent travel for work or pleasure can take its toll on the mind and body. An expert at Baylor College of Medicine shares the warning signs of travel fatigue and how to stay healthy while traveling.
“Though frequent travel can boost your mood and positively impact your mental health, keep in mind that it’s a two-way street,” said Dr. Mike Ren, assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor. “While traveling, it is important to keep up your physical and mental well-being to maximize the beneficial effects of travel.”
Travel fatigue manifests differently for each person, but some of the most common symptoms include trouble sleeping, feeling disengaged, experiencing higher stress or anxiety levels and overindulging in food or alcohol. Depending on the severity of symptoms, individuals may need to refrain from traveling to reset. Ren advises consulting with a physician to discuss whether a pause is necessary and to address stress and other symptoms that do not resolve. Simple preventative action can be taken to lessen these symptoms.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure you are up to date on all your vaccinations, particularly for international travel, and if you are on prescription medications, make sure you have an adequate supply for travel and a few days upon return,” Ren said. “Make sure to maintain a good level of hygiene by washing your hands often and take advantage of telehealth visits while traveling if symptoms or medical concerns arise.”
Jet lag and different time zones may throw an individual’s circadian rhythm out of sync, but with the right supplements and habits, sleep won’t be lost on vacation or business travel. Cure jet lag by adhering to local times and adjusting sleeping and eating schedules to those hours, rather than the ones back home. Put away smartphones 30 minutes before bed and create a cool, comfortable environment to sleep in. Ren advises avoiding beverages that contain alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime and remembering to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
If these sleep habits do not prove effective, Ren suggests using sleep masks and earplugs to help create a dark and quiet environment to sleep in.
Additionally, taking melatonin supplements can be used to help fall asleep, and some people even find help through calming scents such as lavender.
Though travel may interrupt an individual’s exercise regimen, there are many ways to stay active while away from home. Ren encourages walking and adventuring during travel as the best way to stay active. Body weight exercises can be performed first thing in the morning so that they are not forgotten about later in the day and exercise apps and athletic equipment that easily travels, like jump ropes or exercise bands, also can be used.
“If you have an active day of walking, biking or hiking, you shouldn’t feel guilty about skipping a workout,” Ren said.
Keeping a balanced diet while trying out new cuisines is possible. Stay hydrated when traveling and make conscious decisions when deciding where to eat.
“Whenever possible, choose food options that come with plenty of fresh fruits …….