Over the last decade, the importance of using self care to maintain our personal wellbeing has become an expanding part of our cultural conversation. With the increasing pressure of our fast paced world affecting many of us, habits such as meditation, exercise and eating well help to keep us on an even keel.
Unfortunately, as we travel, it can be easy to let our wellbeing-boosting habits slip. While there’s nothing wrong with letting our hair down when we choose to see the world, if we’ve got used to following certain self care rituals to feel healthy and happy, suddenly neglecting them can be very disorientating.
Whether you are aiming to reach a fitness goal, practice meditation to manage your anxiety or try to get enough “me-time” to keep your stress levels at a minimum, there are a variety of reasons why you might practice self-care when you are at home. Throwing all these habits out of the window while you travel can have all sorts of adverse consequences, from heightened anxiety to feeling bloated and tired.
It’s vital to walk the balance between indulging yourself and having fun, and keeping hold of your good habits. This ensures that you won’t send you wellbeing into a spin, and come home feeling more exhausted, unhappy and unhealthy than when you left. Luckily, these four easy-to-follow tips are here to help you feel at your best throughout your entire travel experience.
Make time for meditation and appreciate the moment
You may intend to relax, but sometimes travelling can be pretty stressful. We spend so much time planning (and looking forward to) these adventures that our expectations can be pretty high, and the urge to see and do as much as possible can stuff our itineraries to bursting point.
This is where a habit like meditation can be so helpful. Meditation will help you to place your worries aside, and gives you a much needed sense of calm and quiet. It also helps you to develop our sense of “present moment awareness”, lessening the internal chatter that can make you feel stressed, distracted or restless in even the most beautiful of settings.
By sitting down to focus on something simple every day - such as a mantra, or your breath - you can let go of your expectations and embrace the moment, whether that’s the vibrant warmth of dense jungle or the exhilaration of jumping into the ocean. The practice of meditation clarifies and enhances your experiences, while also providing a beneficial tool for stress reduction.
People have been aware of meditation’s calming qualities for centuries, but in the last few decades scientific research has added a robust evidence base to these anecdotal claims. Regular meditation is associated with lower cortisol (a key stress hormone), greater focus and improved mood - which makes it the perfect practice to alleviate those hectic moments of travel stress.
Choose nourishing food and keep active
There are a few ways you can eat unhealthy while you travel. It might be that you are so hot and bothered that you consistently miss meals, or are too concerned about sticking to a diet in an unfamiliar environment to eat properly. On the other hand, you may have fully embraced the treat yourself mentality and gone a little overboard, or are so busy you’ve started to rely on fast food options.
Making sure your food choices are broadly positive is perhaps the easiest way to feel great - avoiding the lightheadedness and fatigue that comes with eating too little, and the discomfort that can come with eating too much.
No food is inherently bad, unclean or toxic (unless you’ve laced it with arsenic!), so this isn’t about cutting anything out, but about aiming for balance. Eating can be a joyful experience - and especially when you are travelling through different cultures - so dive into the opportunity to experience new things and have a few treats.
Just remember to keep enough lovely, nourishing foods in your diet that your wellbeing doesn’t suffer - such as filling up on fruit at breakfast, or trying fresh local cuisine rather than plumping for fast food. If you find it hard to eat enough while you are travelling, carry high-energy snacks like protein bars and energy balls with you so you aren’t caught out, and aim to get three square meals a day.
Try to keep your key daily routines
It’s inevitable that our routines will change as we travel, but there are some fundamental daily habits that we all rely on, and which we should try not to neglect.
For example, while your sleep pattern may suffer through time zone changes and the excitement of being abroad, you should still maintain good sleep hygiene and get a healthy amount of shut eye every night. Whether you wind down with a bath or read something soothing before you climb into bed, try to avoid your phone or laptop an hour before sleeping, and get lots of natural light to keep your circadian rhythms ticking over nicely.
It’s also important to maintain any regimen you have for daily medications, such as birth control pills or blood pressure tablets, sticking to the intake schedule you follow at home. Make sure you leave with a full supply, and make yourself aware of the local doctors and pharmacies in case you lose them. Furthermore, remember any supplements that have become part of your everyday diet, and continue to take them as instructed.
Go easy on the moonshine
There’s no need to abstain from alcohol while you are travelling (unless you want to, of course), but if you’ve found yourself by the pool sipping your fourth Sea Breeze of the afternoon, it may be time to put the brakes on a bit.
With swim-up bars, all-inclusive resorts offering cocktails and little to do but enjoy yourself, it can be very easy to overindulge while you travel. And this is even more true for backpackers and gap year adventurers, as full moon parties and cheap booze are seen as a key part of the travel experience.
But suffering with your second hangover in a row isn’t particularly conducive to long-term relaxation, and binge drinking on vacation (particularly in hot climates) can have serious consequences - including an abnormal heart rhythm professionals call “holiday heart”. The anxiety spike we can experience the morning after a few too many drinks (aka “The Fear”), is also pretty unpleasant, as are the depressant effects of alcohol.
While you may not want to self-impose a full prohibition, try to stick to the government guidelines for daily alcohol intake, make sure you have lots of booze-free days, and intersperse your alcoholic drinks with a glass of still or sparkling water.
This post was written by wellness writer Holly Ashby, who works with the meditation organization, Beeja. Beeja provides a easy-to-do, mantra-based meditation training and an alternative to mindfulness classes in London, as well as meditation retreats and wellness-focused music events.