If you’re someone who loves to travel, there’s no better feeling than immersing yourself in a new culture, or seeing and exploring someplace new.
Traveling can be a sense stimulating, eye-opening, soul-enriching experience.
What isn’t a great feeling or experience, is finding yourself sick while you’re away or before you’ve even have the chance to unpack your suitcase. But lucky for you, there are multiple known tricks and tactics that can help keep you healthy while you are away from home.
This article explains several suggestions for how to stay healthy while traveling and will help you properly prepare, so you can return from your trip with new memories, instead of an illness.
Do your best to minimize stress
Traveling can be stressful. Between planning your itinerary, packing, catching planes, following driving directions, etc, your body starts sustaining stress long before you even leave on your adventure.
Stress decreases your body’s defenses against illness. More specifically, it lowers lymphocytes or the white blood cells that help fight off infection. This is one of the reasons that we are so susceptible to falling ill while traveling. Our stress levels increase, and then our defenses decrease.
While some stress may simply be unavoidable, one way to increase your odds of staying healthy while traveling is to do your best to minimize stress. Do things like plan ahead, leave early, and set aside some downtime.
When there is simply no way to avoid it, or you’re already feeling flustered, certain stress management techniques can help lessen your tension, and help restore balance to your body.
Deep, focused breathing
Because you are increasing the amount of oxygen to your brain, deep breathing engages your parasympathetic nervous system. This encourages a state of calmness, reduces tension, and helps quiet your mind. Deep breathing has even been shown to help boost your resistance to illness.
Start by sitting or lying comfortably. Slowly breathe in through your nose, letting your belly fill with air as much as you can. Pause at the top, and then slowly breath out through your nose, emptying your belly. Repeat this process as necessary. A single deep breath will begin to ease tension, but this practice will have the best results if done for longer spans. (Aim for 10-20 minutes.)
Essential Oils (especially lavender, rose, basil, neroli, and ylang ylang)
Studies have shown that essential oils directly impact our bodies via our nervous system, and that certain oils can help lower our heart rate, help lower our blood pressure and help us to transition to a more relaxed state. Diffusing essential oils, adding some to a warm bath, or adding some to your favorite non-scented moisturizer is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress.
Meditation / Mindfulness
For thousands of years, meditation has been used as a pathway to help achieve inner peace. But it can also be used when stressed to restore a relaxed state of stillness within.
Studies have shown that meditation can calm your nervous system, and help reduce negative emotions, your cortisol levels (the stress hormone), and inflammation.
When you find yourself in a heightened state of anxiety and stress, mindfulness meditation can help bring you out of an overwhelmingly stressful state and back into focusing on the present moment.
When performing a mindfulness meditation, you focus on your connection to your body, and the flow of your breathing. You observe your thoughts and emotions and let them pass without judgement.
Stretching / Yoga
Yoga is a great way to prevent stress, along with being a great way to center yourself after you’re already stressed. Doing yoga and stretching actually combine more than one stress reduction technique. Exercise, controlling your breath, clearing the mind, and focusing on the present moment are all combined while practicing yoga. Putting yourself into almost any yoga pose has been shown to have an immediate effect towards stress reduction, but a few poses that are shown to reduce stress, and are suited for beginners, are: standing forward fold, child’s pose, corpse pose, easy pose, and cow pose.
Support your immune system
Since we know that it is likely that you will be experiencing elevated stress levels, and you may be traveling on planes, trains, taxis, or visiting other shared public spaces, you will likely be coming in contact with recycled air (planes) and foreign pathogens. It is wise to do what you can to support the system that will come to your defence against illness.
Supplements like Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and probiotics have been shown to help boost your immune system.
Believe it or not, 70 percent of your immune system’s cells live in your gut, so it is extremely important to support our microbiome if we hope to stay healthy. Eating fermented foods (sauerkraut, pickles, kefir), fiber rich vegetables, and legumes, are also a few great ways to support your immune system.
Stay properly hydrated
Water supports and is imperative for every organ, cell, and system in your body. Everything from digestion, to your kidneys filtering toxins and your body removing waste requires sufficient water. Proper hydration is essential for maintaining optimal health.
So when we are not properly hydrated we have a harder time fighting off illness.
Everyone’s individual water intake needs vary based on factors such as activity level, age, sun exposure, and health status, but according to the National Academy of Medicine, adult women should aim to drink around 90 ounces per day and adult men should aim for 125 ounces per day.
Two great ways to encourage yourself to drink more water while traveling are to carry a reusable water bottle and to add lemons or other fruits to your water for flavor.
Get proper rest
Getting proper rest is essential for staying healthy. Sleep deprivation suppresses your immune system and can make you more susceptible to developing an illness because your levels of infection-fighting antibodies are lowered when you don’t get adequate sleep. It is recommended that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep every night to help maintain proper immune system functioning.
However, if you find yourself enjoying every moment of the excitement, and staying up a bit late while you’re away, taking 30-minute naps has been shown to help lessen stress and to offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system.
It is especially important to practice self-care and manage your stress levels when you are not following your regular routine. Changes to your environment, eating patterns and stress levels can all have long-lasting effects if they aren’t balanced with the proper protocol.
While creating downtime and taking time away from the exciting experiences of traveling may sound unappealing, prioritizing these steps will be incredibly beneficial for you and will help you to sustain your health while you’re traveling.
It is also important to note that there truly is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle. While taking supplements can help, your lifestyle will ultimately determine your overall health and the effectiveness of your immune system.
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