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Managing Stress While Traveling

How to stay happy, sane and healthy while on the road for work

For people who don’t travel for business, the idea of hopping from airport to airport might look glamorous. It’s dazzling – all the places you see, the people you meet and the great food at those fancy restaurants. If your Instagram pics are true, you have the best job ever.

And I’m not going to deny it. I love my job – especially the travel – but behind the fun pics there’s a lot of cold coffee for breakfast, running to keep ahead of flight delays and missing loved ones back at home. Not to mention, missed flights, strange foods and precious little time to exercise – just a few of the frustrations that can dampen the party going on at the front of the house.

stresses of business travelBut if traveling for business is your life, you either learn to manage the stress or you end up an overweight, exhausted and likely an older-looking-than-your-years version of yourself. The Willy Lomans of travel will tell you that’s inevitable – just give into it and do your job already.

A colleague recently told me that he gets physically tired when he boards a plane, as if his limbs get heavier just by crossing the threshold. And he’s not alone. CWT surveyed 6,000 business travelers and found that traveling can steal up to 6.9 hours per trip due to stress, meaning that they don’t use that time for work or rest.

Not being the kind of person that gives up or gives in easily, I believe that the hypermobility of business travel doesn’t have to be draining to your health. Much of overcoming it is perspective.

1. Adhere to your home habits while traveling

When you sleep in a different bed every night and you’re not surrounded by your own creature comforts, staying true to daily routines can help balance out the discombobulation. Simple acts like washing your face, brushing and flossing before bed can send familiar signals to the brain that you’re getting ready for sleep. If you like to read before bed or when you wake up in the morning, factor that into your timing as well.

A hotel room will never be home but habits that keeps us healthy and sane can go a long way to making time away from home more manageable.

2. Plan religiously for exercise

plan to stay healthyWhen I travel for business, I can be tied up from morning to night with meetings, which means unlike being at home, exercise and downtime must be hyper-planned. Getting up early to workout is only an option if the gym opens early enough for me to shower, do my make-up and get to my meeting on time. To compensate, my Fitbit helps me keep track of my daily steps, and since I’m so competitive, I consciously work as many steps into my day as possible.

  • Take the stairs if there’s a choice
  • Park further away to force an outdoor walk into my day
  • Walk between flights in the airport instead of sitting down

3. Eat what you want – within moderation

Eating can be a massive hurdle for people who travel. Sure, the business dinner might be at a swanky hotel but night after night, the rich foods and booze can make you feel like you’re re-enacting a Mad Men episode. Not to mention what all that food does for your digestive system.  

  • Start your day with breakfast – Not the iHop T-bone steak and eggs with a side of waffles slathered in oh-so-yummy maple syrup. Build your breakfast around clean protein, some greens and fruit. Not nearly as exciting but your body will thank you for it later in the day.
  • focus on eating healthy when travelingHunt down healthy fast food – Blaming an expanding waistline on the lack of available healthy food is pure laziness. With all the restaurant apps available today, there’s no excuse for not being able to find a healthy alternative to a Big Mac and fries. Sorry, no free passes here.
  • Drink a lot of water – With lemon. This super food is packed with a cocktail of antioxidants to help you stay healthy and they’re also good for helping you digest that rich food and flushing the booze out of your system.
  • Give yourself a break – There’s no way to adhere to a strict diet on the road so give yourself permission to sin once a day. If you’re a dessert-lover, order a salad for your main to balance things out. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to play by the rules if you know a reward is coming your way.

4. Use your devices to help keep you connected

It might seem like a no-brainer but staying connected to your loved ones at home can help reduce stress by massive amounts. Facetime, texting, social media – use whatever you have available to you to keep in touch with the people you love most in the world. Can’t be at a piano or dance recital or a home turf football game? Get someone to Duo you in for the action – or text you the play by plays so you’ll feel like you’re there. They will appreciate it but you’ll benefit too.

On the flip side, know when to disconnect too. Because timing is tight, calling home can sometimes get squeezed into the minutes between meetings – and that’s okay. If I’m too tired to talk after a full day, my husband and I connect in the morning instead.

5. Learn how to pack smart

dress for the weather and success!There’s nothing worse than arriving at a hotel late at night for an important breakfast meeting the next day than to discover you forgot your toothbrush, dress shoes (to go with your snazzy new suit) or worse, your power cord for your laptop. To help mitigate forgetting the daily toiletries, I have a whole stash of them, travel-sized and ready to go at all times. But let’s go beyond that.

  • Track the weather – Even for business travel, I track the temps on my weather app leading up to my departure. It helps get me in the mindset for packing stuff like sweaters, sandals or an umbrella.
  • Keep your wardrobe simple – I plan attire around basic pieces (pants and skirts) and ensure that tops, sweaters, scarves and jewelry are interchangeable, just in case there’s a coffee spill and I have to change quickly. By building out from core pieces, you can go a full week without repeating a single look.
  • Pack your carryon with care – An extra sweater, moisturizer, gum and anything else you need to stay warm, help you relax and enjoy the flight.

No job is perfect and everyone comes with it’s own unique stress. Given the choice between a cubicle farm and traveling for my job, I’ll take the traveling. Thank you very much! But even though I love what I do, I still have to be careful with my time, energy and food when I’m on the road. And while that protection of my health can sometimes mean making an unpopular choice, my health is always appreciative.

How do you manage stress when you travel? Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook – and let’s continue the conversation!

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