Remember to pack relaxation into your next trip

Creating a few new habits can keep you focused and stress-free when you’re most outside your comfort zone.

By Louise Wedgwood, August 7 2019

Travelling for business brings a break from the day-to-day routine, and opportunities to do different things. It can also mean long hours, disrupted sleep, disconnection from loved ones, and dramas at work in your absence.

US research published in 2018 showed that frequent business travellers have greater trouble sleeping, are more prone to anxiety and depression, and have greater likelihood of alcohol dependence. It makes sense to look at your travel routines and plans, and implement a few small, but crucial improvements to maintain a more serene atmosphere around your next trip.

Bring a relaxing routine with you

Brisbane-based IT trainer and consultant Kyle Rosenthal has already clocked up 60 international flights spanning over 300,000km this year.

He’s developed a strategy to stay relaxed wherever he travels, and says consistency is most important. “After a time the rooms don't matter, it is the pattern that does,” he says.

Put down the laptop and pick up a book or magazine for a little 'me' time.

Your calming routine could include a page-turning novel, a few stretches, a soothing playlist, your favourite tea from home, or an aromatherapy sleep balm. Kyle packs his Bluetooth speaker and Chromecast. “The first so I can listen to my own music, and the second so I can watch my own choice of shows - particularly important if you are in a non-English-speaking country.”

Schedule for serenity

When booking, look for non-stop flights to reduce the risk of delays. If you’re tempted to catch a red-eye or early-morning flight instead of leaving the day before, carefully weigh up the pros and cons. It can be false economy to arrive tired, especially if there won’t be time to catch up on rest.

Book a massage ahead of time to help unwind and de-stress.

At your destination, do you squeeze meetings into every minute? Taking time to reflect and refocus between appointments is ultimately more effective. Program some time off the clock to wind down. Check out your hotel’s spa for a massage, or stroll through the local gardens or art gallery.

Avoid luggage stress

Keep a comprehensive checklist of things to pack so you aren’t mentally carrying that information. Apps like Packpoint and Packr generate a list based on your activities and the weather forecast. Don’t forget items for your relaxing evening routine.

Bringing only carry-on luggage eliminates one step of the airport palaver. The secret to making everything fit? Stick to a basic, versatile and interchangeable wardrobe. Weigh and measure your bag at home to be sure it’s acceptable.

Take care of your brain

Your brain is just another part of your body. It follows that maintaining good physical health boosts your mental capacity. Unsurprisingly, this means eating nutritious snacks, drinking water, keeping your body moving and prioritising sleep.

If you can use an airport lounge on arrival, consider a quick pit-stop to recharge.

Most of us only use the business lounge while waiting for take-off, but regular traveller and project manager Bruce Willmott routinely stops in on arrival, too. “Once I land, I use the lounge again to rehydrate … I usually grab a piece of fruit or two on the way out to keep me going through the day between meetings.”

Invest in personal relationships

Both you and your loved ones feel the strain when you’re away. It can help to put a reminder on your phone to check in at your kids’ or partner’s bedtime. You can also send a customised, old-school postcard, or use a smartphone postcard app to generate an email surprise.

Set a reminder to phone home and touch base with children or a significant other.

You might be there to foster work relationships, but why not renew personal connections at your destination, too? Perhaps there’s an old friend or former colleague you can catch up with, away from work pressures.

If there’s no one you need to dine with for work or pleasure, go out anyway. “Don't eat in the hotel room. If all you see is the four walls then it doesn't help,” Rosenthal suggests. “If you are travelling for work, then you are probably alone, but don't be afraid of a table for one.”

Relax to think more clearly

Flight time equals uninterrupted work time, right? Think twice if you need to perform at your best on arrival. Spend part of the flight in relaxation mode. Listen to music or podcasts, take a nap, or read your book.

Find time and space for some basic breathing exercises to activate your parasymathetic system.

Grab snippets of free time to turn on your body’s relaxation system. On the plane, in the taxi, or whenever you think of it, you can use a discreet breathing technique such as slow or “square" breathing. This activates your parasympathetic or “rest and digest” system, and curbs the effects of stress.

The technique: breathe in slowly for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, breathe out for four and hold it for four. Repeat this cycle for a minute or two.

All things considered, the best tool for creating a relaxed environment on business trips is your mindset. Aim to see the trip as an adventure, so you can cope with setbacks such as losing your laptop or coming down with a cold.

There may be countless factors you can’t control, but maintaining an attitude of flexibility is something you can.

Louise Wedgwood

Louise Wedgwood is a Brisbane-based 'science-savvy' health and lifestyle writer.

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