By Heather Viera
Whether you travel for business or pleasure, there’s no place like home. New sites, foods, and people enrich and fulfill the travel life, but it can take a toll. Jetlag, laundry, returning work emails can all hit you as soon as you set foot on the tarmac. When you’re home, self-care can keep you grounded and energized.
The term ‘self-care’ gets loaded with images of days at the spa or full-body massages. While those can be part of your self-care, it’s a daily routine with self-care built into it that helps you recuperate from your travels.
Daily self-care doesn’t need to take hours. The best kind of self-care is the type that happens in small pockets throughout the day. It can begin as soon as your eyes open. Before starting your day, take five or ten minutes to reconnect through meditation.
Meditation refocuses your mind on the current moment rather than all the tasks that are to come. As you become more adept at meditation, you can learn to trigger your body’s ‘relaxation response,’ which reduces your heart rate and drops your blood pressure.
Your mind isn’t the only part of you that needs care. Physical exercise releases endorphins for a long-term mood boost. And then, of course, there are benefits to the muscles, lungs, and cardiovascular system. Recent research has shown that exercise is helpful no matter what time of day you do it. If you’re getting technical, morning exercise boosts the metabolic rate in skeletal muscles and evening exercise boosts energy use for a longer period of time.
Exercise can also be helpful if you’re struggling with jetlag. During jetlag, your internal clock gets out of sync with your external environment. Increasing your heart rate and using energy keeps you awake during the day but helps your body feel tired at night, making it easier to re-sync your circadian rhythms.
If you take your exercise outside, you’ll be doubling up on your self-care. Spending time in nature is caring for your mental health. Time outside can reduce activity in the part of the brain responsible for depressive ruminations. It can also help your memory and boost your concentration.
Sunlight also helps sync your body’s circadian rhythms. Your eyes contain special photoreceptors called ganglion cells that absorb the blue spectrum light that travels through Earth’s atmosphere. Those cells then send signals directly to the brain that suppress sleep hormones. If sleep hormones are kept in check during the day, they’re fully prepped and ready to go once it gets dark.
Finally, one of the simplest ways to incorporate self-care into your day is to get at least seven hours of sleep. Sleep is a fundamental part of your health. Sleep maintains the balance between the emotion and logic parts of your brain. Without it, irritability, aggression, and sadness can take over. It’s also vital to muscle recovery. The body has to reach the deepest levels of sleep before the body begins to heal from daily wear and tear on your muscles.
To get better sleep, make sure your bedroom is kept cool and completely dark at night. Your mattress should relieve pressure on your shoulders and hips and help maintain a neutral spinal position. And, be sure to go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule, especially when you’re fighting jetlag.
Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming, or expensive. It’s about taking time to care for your body’s physical and mental needs. These small efforts can make a big difference in your energy levels and how you feel. Over time, they’ll become a part of who you are, which will leave you plenty of energy to travel to your next destination.
Heather Viera is a lifestyle expert and researcher for FamilyLivingToday.com. She is dedicated to achieving a balanced lifestyle, even with two small children and a full-time career. In the little free time she has, she enjoys hiking with her partner and taking her dog to the beach.