I recently returned from an overseas holiday. Travel was physically and mentally demanding. After many hours on various forms of transport and in airports, my body hurt and my mind was in a blur. All that time in dry, recycled air on planes and all that time being shunted from one process to another took its toll on me. Also, being quite introverted, being with so many people over that time was energetically exhausting. Food becomes my self-care practice, but even that strategy was starting to wear out. Fortunately I had a whole toolkit of self-care practices to support me.
When we travel long distances we might hardly think about the toll travel takes on our mind and body. But with some planning, we can take care of ourselves as we do this. Here are some suggestions:
- Plan self-care well ahead of time. If at all possible, give yourself at least two days off after you return from a long journey. Take those days off from work and don’t schedule anything taxing.
- Acknowledge that travel is stressful. That stress might creep up on you, so be prepared. Just because millions of people do it every day does not mean that it’s not stressful.
- Give your body what it needs. If that’s chocolate ice cream at the airport, give your mind and body that. If it’s laying down, give your mind and body that. If it’s finding a quiet place in the airport, give your mind and body that. If it’s a little retail therapy, give your mind and body that. If it’s stretching, give your mind and body that. If the inner critic comes in to tell you off for eating or shopping or laying down, let him or her know that your mind and body are your priority right now, and that for this short period of time, you are setting some boundaries to take care of it in whatever way it needs. Let the inner critic know that this is not its time to pipe in – information from your body is more relevant than information from your inner critic at this time.
- Carry “connection medicine” with you. In indigenous cultures, medicine is anything that heals and soothes the mind, body or soul. Connection medicine might be that book you’ve been reading for a while that gives you a sense of a connecting thread between your home, your time away and yourself. It might be ginger drops that you take regularly to soothe your belly and give you a little sugary delight. It might be knitting, crocheting, meditating, listening to your favorite soothing music – any activity you do on an ongoing basis that connects you with the rest of your life.
- When you get home, explain to your loved ones that you are jet lagged. Let them know that you are suffering. Draw on their support and love and also give yourself the space you need to come back to center again at home.
- Acknowledge that long distance travel may well make your mind and emotions shut down. We need to shut down, to close to protect ourselves when we have had enough stimulation. Being physically uncomfortable and immersed in sights, sound, movement and tactile experience for so long often leads us to close. Validate this. Give yourself the time you need to come back to center, so that you can start to open back up a little when your system feels ready. The two days off after you return will be a good way to start to do this. Other ways to help you in this will be personal to you. You might need to sit and watch re-runs of your favorite reality TV show on the couch for a while in order to start transitioning from closing back to center. You might need to sit and just be with yourself quietly. You might need to go to your beloved constantly to seek soul nourishment and physical touch. Your body will tell you what you need to do to bring yourself back to center.
For more practical tips on self-care during air travel, you can read this article.
If you’d like to explore more ways to offer your body and mind self-care and self-compassion, you might like to join us in the next Somatic Self-Compassion adventure. I’d love to spend some time traveling with you.
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