Prep For Travel From The Inside Out
Your plane tickets are purchased, and your suitcase is packed, but have you taken the time to prepare your mind and body to travel? The side-effects of your next trip could weigh more heavily than you might realize on your overall health and wellness. Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up a list of the best practices rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to help you get ready to travel, from the inside out.
What Effects Does Flying Have on the Body?
In case you hadn’t noticed…flying through the sky isn’t the most natural state for human beings. It actually can pose many physical and mental changes and challenges. Did you know just being on a plane dehydrates you? Airplanes have very low humidity levels, and recycle the same air over and over. This causes intense levels of dryness in the cabin and can cause passengers to lose up to a half-gallon of liquid while in-flight!
The recycled air can also expose your body to infections from other passengers. Chew on a piece of licorice, osha or echinacea root to counter the germs. Or do it Asian style and wear a face mask- just put it on after you get through security.
Sitting in the same seat for long periods of time isn’t fun for anyone, but believe it or not, boredom isn’t the biggest concern! Extended time sitting on a plane can cause poor circulation in the legs and feet, resulting in swelling and discomfort. You’ve probably also experienced one of the following symptoms as well: bloating, dizziness, headaches and nausea are also common complaints when flying. These afflictions are due to the drastic shifts in air pressure over the course of the flight.
Not to worry, though! Drinking plenty of water and taking a casual walk up and down the aisle of the plane are quick fixes. Partner that with the tips included below and you’ll be good to go.
Does Travel Weaken Your Immune System?
Recycled air plus getting up close and personal with strangers means traveling can feel like one big bacterial exchange. We’ve all had those moments of horror realizing that every other passenger seems to be sniffling and coughing around us. While one flight won’t necessarily weaken your entire immune system, you’re much more likely to catch a bug if you aren’t strong in health upon boarding the plane. Consistent traveling without care for your health and wellness can make you way more likely to get sick.
Tips to Prepare for Travel
Readying the mind and body for travel ideally begins several days to a week in advance. Whether your goal is to foster a sense of relaxation and minimal stress, or you hope to boost circulation and hydration on a travel day, the practices listed below can help. Be sure to talk to a trained practitioner of TCM for any techniques that are unfamiliar to you.
If you’re new to meditation, you should know there is so much more to it than sitting in silence or chanting “om”. Actually, one of the best ways to start your trip off on the right foot is through meditation. First, clear the mind of the cluttered thoughts surrounding to-do lists and travel preparations. Know that the work will get done in time. Then, open the mind and heart to the possibilities awaiting for growth as you venture to a new place. Set an intention for the journey and use it as your guiding principle throughout the trip.
To round out your meditation session for travel, repeat positive affirmations for your travels. Affirmations for travel can center around qualities such as safety, positive experiences, bravery and courage, and peace. Sit in the glow of gratitude and peace surrounding your impending trip and complete your breathing exercises for the duration of your choosing.
Tea is more than just a cozy drink for chilly days! Teas have always been used as a core part of herbal treatments in TCM for mental and physical purification along with greater mental and emotional awareness. Prior to traveling on a plane, bus, or long car ride, you may have concerns about anxiety, nausea, or circulation. Chances are, there’s a tea for that!
Chrysanthemum is well known for calming nerves, while the longan fruit is noted for its ability to improve circulation. If you’re worried about getting nauseous, opt for ginger. All can be steeped to make tea. Feel free to add additional ingredients like jujubes or goji berries for additional benefits. Start drinking the tea several days leading up to your departure for best results. You can also bring rhodiola teabags to deal with elevation changes in-flight or after getting off the plane.
Yoga and Qigong
Unless you have a private jet, chances are your travel accommodations are far from luxury. Uncomfortable seating, heavy bags, and long lines can bring on all kinds of aches and pains. To make sure your body is prepped to travel, take a yoga or qigong class. Practicing yoga can help relieve tension, improve circulation and flexibility, and provide additional strength and support in key muscle groups like the back and core. Qigong does this and intentionally moves energy through the meridians to overcome blockages and enhance the nourishment of your tissues. Each of these qualities can make long periods of sedentary existence less uncomfortable and help you feel better upon arrival.
Whether you practice a vinyasa flow or yin yoga, or an 8 brocades qigong, the principles and poses will provide you with the benefits needed for a positive travel experience. You can even bring lessons from yoga with you on the airplane. Practicing “ujjayi breathing” or “neigong” techniques can help recenter you by calming the nervous system and increasing circulation. You can even perform small stretches for the hands and wrists, neck and head, and feet and ankles right from your seat for added relaxation.
Stop what you’re doing and put the chips down! Did you know that the food you eat prior to a journey can have an impact on how your travel day goes? According to TCM, you’ll want to axe the processed and junk foods, along with anything containing excessive yang. Foods containing yang often lie on the extreme ends of the sweet and spicy spectrums along with alcohol and caffeine. As good as that in-flight cocktail or coffee may seem, it might be best to skip them.
Wholesome, fresh foods is where your attention should go to make sure your body is well nourished to travel. Try to stick to foods that calm the nervous system and lower anxiety. Some of these include mushrooms, vitamin B-rich green vegetables like spinach and kale, or healthy fats like avocado and eggs.
It is often said that the body follows the mind. If your mind is filled with thoughts and fears, your body will also reflect those experiences as energetic blockages. Meditation might not be your thing, but have you ever considered journaling? Releasing all those distracting or negative thoughts can help you de-stress!
Acupuncture is a powerful remedy to many travel-related issues leading up to your trip. If you’ve been anxious about your impending travels or other concerns, traveling without remedying the anxiety can cause it to worsen. Most sufferers of anxiety exhibit physical pains and tension in the neck, back, or jaw, which can be expounded upon in those uncomfortable airplane seats.
But how does it work? Acupuncture opens up the “meridian channels”, or energy pathways, within the body. This allows tension to be released and muscles to relax. Getting an acupuncture treatment before your trip can help relieve both the physical and mental tension caused by stress as well as increase circulation, and lower blood pressure and heart rate. Entering your travels in a state of greater relaxation and overall physical wellness sets you up for success. And of course, acupuncture after the trip can remedy any issues you didn’t anticipate.
If motion sickness is a concern, you can use acupressure while on the airplane. Acupressure utilizes the same points an acupuncturist might use, but you simply apply pressure to them with your fingers. No needles necessary! Try the point Pericardium 6 until the nausea subsides. This point is located one thumb’s width below the wrist crease, directly in the middle of the inner wrist.
Are you a culprit of staying up late to back the night before a trip? You may be ruining your travel day in more ways than forgetting to pack your underwear. Sleep is a key component in maintaining your mood and overall health, especially when preparing for a long journey. It’s important to make sure that you’re getting a full, deep night’s rest in the weeks leading up to your travels. Most adults need between 7-10 hours of sleep per night for full restoration. Though it may seem inevitable to stay up late the night before your trip, do your best to plan ahead and prioritize sleep.
For those struggling with insomnia or other sleep issues, TCM offers several solutions. Chances are, your “qi”, or energy, is out of balance. An imbalance or deficiency of yin is often the cause of insomnia, with stress and poor circulation coming in as contributing factors. Acupuncture or acupressure massage can often aid in remedying sleep issues along with herbal teas and tinctures made from ingredients such as jujube seed (suan zao ren).
Prepare a Flight Kit
Make your flight as comfortable as possible by creating your own flight kit! Include items that provide comfort, peace, and promote overall wellness and help minimize the risk of picking up negative energetic influences or illness. Consider packing a few essential oils like lavender, bergamot, or clary sage for stress relief, peppermint for an energy boost, or sandalwood to calm nerves.
Other useful items to add to your flight kit should revolve around maintaining hydration, maximizing rest, and preserving positive energy. For maintaining hydration, include your favorite travel sized skincare products and lotions and bring a large reusable water bottle in your carry on bag that you can fill up once you’re through security.
Maximize rest by bringing along an eye mask and ear plugs to promote uninterrupted sleep or relaxation. You can also bring along small gemstones for added energetic value. Malachite is known as the stone for travel, granting protection and warding off fears related to flying. Amethyst or jade are other good choices to pack in your carry on bag, as both repel negative energy.
What holistic preparations do you take when traveling? Share your must-do’s below!