Globalisation, together with Australia’s isolation and size, means that business owners have never travelled more. Last year, Australian businesses spent $1.7 billion on business travel and that doesn’t even factor in the stress and potential costs to the health of those travellers.
Author of A life less stressed: The 5 pillars of health and wellness, Dr Ron Ehrlich, says that stress affects most people in the modern world and business travel compounds that stress.
But he also says there are ways to minimise its adverse effects, even turn them into positives.
Dr Ehrlich says there are two basic challenges to overcome to achieve this:
“Like so many things in our modern world, we may not be able to change things we have little control over, but we can change the way we think about them,” he says.
“It turns out the way we think about things has a very significant impact on how a stress actually impacts on health, either in positive or negative way.”
Dr Ehrlich adds that if travel for business is an inescapable fact, then seeing it as an opportunity to focus on individual health, without the distractions of family, friends or the office provides an opportunity too good to miss.
“People love routine and bodies respond well to it,” says Dr Ehrlich.
“Business travel challenges almost every aspect of that. So, building as much routine into the travel may help. From the ritual of preparing for the trip, to the decisions about what to take, which airline to fly with, which hotel chain to stay in, how to approach time zones and sleep, when to exercise and, how and what to eat.”
Dr Ehrlich’s 8 tips to healthier business travel
1. Plan ahead
Using a familiar airline and stay in a familiar hotel chain, with the “familiar” easing the journey. Pack as lightly, focus on dark colours, clothes that don’t need ironing and ensure transfers are well organised.
2. Explore ways of dealing with jet lag
Set watches and digital devices to the destination. Travellers look at the time a lot, so reinforcing destination-time-zone is a good start.
If sleeping on a plane or in a hotel is difficult don’t stress or become frustrated. Resting is powerful. Close the eyes, focus on gentle nasal breathing and breath-holding to switch on the rest-and-digest part of the nervous system. Rest is good.
4. Melatonin can help.
It’s best taken one to two hours before sleep. In nature melatonin builds as the sun goes down. Lack of sun and electronic devices interfere with melatonin production, so switch to a book or use a filter for the blue light of the device. Get out in the sun on arrival.
5. Stay Hydrated
Water is best. Planes and hotel air conditioning are dehydrating enough, but throw in the alcohol and coffee and it’s setting you up for dehydration.
6. Eat lightly and try fasting
It’s easy on business trips to get into three substantial meals a day. Build intermittent fasting or calorie restriction into your travels. It’s a good habit.
Move regularly on flights; in transits walk rather than graze. At the destination, build some exercise into the day. Being tired combined with even some light exercise is an opportunity and sets up a better night’s sleep.
8. Wash Your Hands
An important health tip for everyone but when travelling being exposed to unfamiliar microbes is always a challenge.