Traveling frequently for work can take its toll. Whether it’s physical or mental health, travelers are bound to feel the effects of business travel after being away from family, friends and their home for too long.
Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we believe it’s necessary to shed some light on the effects business travel can have on mental health.
In a recent study, researchers found that people who travel for business 21 nights or more per month are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression, trouble sleeping, smoking and alcohol dependence than those who travel 1 to 6 nights. These findings raise red flags, not only for organizations but also for travelers.
What’s more important is how we can take care of ourselves while on the road.
We recently polled our Direct Travel road warriors to understand what they do while on the road to stay mentally healthy. Here are the top 7 tips for better mental health on the road.
Get up and exercise
Trying to keep up with a workout schedule but not keen on going to the hotel gym for fear of running into other colleagues or a client? Pack a resistance band and plan on doing some plyometric and strength training in your hotel room. Here’s a quick and easy routine: 3 reps – 10 sit-ups, 10 push-ups and 10 air squats.
Get sleep and stay hydrated
Nourish your body by drinking enough water and getting enough sleep. Avoid sodas, juice and don’t load up on coffee. These are key components to feeling good and reducing stress and irritability.
Download a meditation app
There are many apps out there that can walk you through guided meditations for sleep, relaxation and stress reduction. Slowing down to breathe, no matter where you are is an easy way for self-care.
Stay connected to home
Regular travel can cause stress on relationships and families. Make time to call the important people in your life and catch up. Also, bringing a family photo for your bedside can keep you grounded.
It’s ok to say “no!”
Saying no to dinner, no to breakfast, no to one more drink, anything – it’s ok. Constant travel can throw anyone off their routine, especially creatures of habit. If you need alone time amidst your travels, don’t feel like you need to give up your evenings. Find relief in saying no.
Choose comfort over cost
The stress of being uncomfortable is not worth it. It’s alright to be picky if it’s still reasonable. For example, sometimes the middle seat in the back of the plane is enough to ruin your trip. If there’s still a reasonable, policy-compliant option that gives you the seat you want—take it. Consult your travel policy to see what's acceptable.
Keep up with your regular work
It’s easy to let your inbox fill up while you’re traveling and procrastinate some of your day-to-day work. Minimize the stress of a full inbox by using Wi-Fi on the plane to go through your email. Also, work on the flight out and take time to rest on your return flight.
BONUS - Know what resources are available to you
Your organization may provide mental health benefits. Reach out to your human resources department or call the number on the back of your health insurance card to understand what help is available just in case you need it.
These are just a few ideas that you can use to find what works for you when you travel. Remember that making small adjustments to your travel routine can a positive impact. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find self-care habits that keep you mentally healthy.
Comment below to share how you take care of your mental health while on the road.