I recently returned from a week in Costa Rica where I explored Sacred Earth Activism with a group of WisdomWomen. It was a magical week, not lacking in challenges but also abundant in gifts of connection and rejuvenation. A true holiday.
Travel back to St Louis was long and physically demanding. Over 15 hours I spent 6 hours in planes, 2.5 hours in a shuttle bus on pot-holed roads, an hour going through customs and immigration, half an hour with my own dear husband driving home to the treehouse and 5 hours in airports. While St Louis is only one hour ahead of Costa Rica, my experience in the days after I got home resembled jet lag, something I thought only happened when I travel across many time zones. 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.
Why am I explaining this? Because I want you and me to be prepared for these things. I want us to practice proactive self-compassion and self-care in these sorts of situations. Many of us travel long distances in our year. We can take care of ourselves as we do this.
How might we do this? Here are some suggestions:
- Plan self-care well ahead of time. If at all possible, give yourself at least 2 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 move your body and mind to close. We need 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, to start to open back up a little. The 2 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 that I wrote a few years ago.
I’d love to hear what you do to take care of yourself during long journeys. What is your self-care and self-compassion strategy? What works and what doesn’t work? How do you know what your body and mind needs? If you’d like to continue exploring your self-care and self-compassion practices, to truly make them your own and to create a very doable program of practice that works for your lifestyle and calendar, you might like to check out my Radical Emergent Self-Wisdom Mentoring program. I’d love to spend some time traveling with you.