I just returned from an amazing opportunity. I spent most of last week at the largest national conference for physical therapists in the United States. In so many ways it was amazing. I had the chance to give a 2-hour presentation to my colleagues on using nutrition as a tool for pelvic pain relief, I got to spend time with my amazing colleagues and friends in physical therapy (most of whom I don’t get the chance to see often enough LIVE!), and I even had the chance to catch up with some former Emory PT school friends and professors. Overall, it was time well spent. But, after my personal experience with adrenal fatigue, and my very clear understanding of the importance of my own self-care to my health, I am deeply committed to practicing what I preach, even during busy, business travel days.
What are my best practices for taking care of your energy, and protecting yourself from getting run down while business traveling?
1. Think about what you’ll eat ahead of time. You don’t always have access to healthy food on the road. I pack a bag of travel snacks for unexpected airport delays, or breakfast in a pinch in my hotel room. What’s in the bag? Protein: pouches of tuna, cans of sardines (don’t worry, I don’t open them on the plane!), turkey or salmon jerky, or sliced lunch meats or boiled eggs if I have the option to keep them on cold packs. For fiber and fat I bring nuts, nut butters (in small pouches, large jars will be snagged by airport security), seeds, apples, carrot sticks, celery sticks, hummus, guacamole, and/or crackers made from seeds and whole grains, like these.
Laura has the coolest travel bag that I have ever seen for toting your own food in style. Check it out here. (She also recommends the backpack style.)
Not only do I recommend that you bring snacks, I recommend that you look at the local restaurant options before you head to the conference. Are there restaurants nearby where you can order simply prepared foods and foods that meet your food sensitivity restrictions? If you don’t have any food sensitivities, and you just want to feel well and maintain your energy, keep it simple. Order the highest quality meat or fish that you can find with simple sauces (or put them on the side), and add root vegetables, leafy green vegetables, or any other vegetables on the menu. Often restaurants will let you choose what works for you based on the proteins and sides that are listed anywhere on the menu. In almost any city you can find a Chipotle or Whole Foods. I like to order extra at dinner, store the leftovers in the hotel mini-fridge, and eat it for breakfast. Laura and I crave Chipotle for breakfast!
2. Drink plenty of water, and minimize how much alcohol and caffeine you drink. I’m not going to tell you to completely skip the glass of wine when you’re out with friends that you rarely see in person. But, do be mindful of drinking water through the meetings, and start your day with a large glass of water to stay hydrated. Do limit your drinking. You can decide how much is enough based on how you feel.
3. Bring peppermint essential oil. It works really well to lift your energy. Just rub a bit on your hands and breath in the energizing aroma. Put a few drops on your fingers and rub them into your scalp or temples if you have a headache from fatigue, dry air, or not following my advice in #2.
4. Have a wind down routine to get the best sleep possible (even with the scratchy hotel sheets and flat hotel pillows.) I never sleep as well in a hotel as I do when I get home. But, I do maintain a simple bedtime routine that helps me to get the best night’s sleep possible. I will often take a warm shower, or wash my face with warm water, put on my fuzzy socks (bring some!), drink a cup of tea (Oh, and bring your own teabags! Laura gave me that idea, and it’s one of my favorites!), and bring a relaxing novel to read in bed.
5. Give yourself a recovery day. This practice is the most important. Even if you’ll just be away for a weekend, give yourself a day to recover. Keep your schedule light, get some extra rest, and nourish yourself with rejuvenating foods. Maybe even schedule a massage or a pedicure that day. I used to always rush back to work to catch up on everything that I missed. But now, I return by Saturday evening if I can, or take it light (or off!) on Monday. I usually underestimate how much the less-than-ideal sleep, lots of social connection, and jet lag will affect me. The rest of the week is vastly more productive if I take my time to get back to work with all of my conference inspired ideas!
What are your best practices when you travel? We’d love to hear your ideas. Please share them in the comments below.