Recently, I went out of town for a conference, and I completely forgot to take my supplements and my vitamins, plus my skin care routine just went straight out the window. It wasn’t because I left the meds back home, or even forgot to pack my fancy moisturizer. It was simply because traveling is a bit of a life juggle for me.
What I mean is, I can have all the good intentions of following my 6-step skincare plan, working out, or taking my morning vitamins… but the truth is, once I’m taken out of our element and daily routine, all bets are off.
Our brains have a hard time associating a new environment with an old routine. Hence why my vitamins stayed in their bottles, my moisturizer sat idle in my travel bag, and I definitely didn’t stick to a healthy food intake. In fact, besides walking the half mile to get my delicious dark roast coffee, I didn’t do much exercising either.
And who could blame me? I spent my mornings and afternoons at a conference. Sure, we had planned breaks and lunches, but this isn’t typically how my day goes. Plus, a 2-hour time difference means my 12:30 p.m. lunch was actually 2:30 p.m. back home. No wonder I was waking up at 4:30 a.m. every day and feeling sluggish by noon.
Now, I understand these conferences need to cater to the collective group. Everyone eats lunch at the same time, everyone attends a speech at the same time, etc. However, a new routine created for the greater good can throw off your personal one. Your brain doesn't understand that everyone else is doing the same thing too, it just wants to know why you're having a snack at what is actually 5 p.m., and then falling into your pillow at 8:30 p.m. Which is why self care is important when you're a traveler.
Clearly, I have a hard time practicing self care when I travel, and I don’t travel nearly as often as a medical professional with a 13-week assignment. So, how do you get your groove back?
KEEP UP THE ROUTINE
Don’t throw caution to the wind and abandon your old routine. Trust me, my conference trip fiasco does not deem me a role model. I caved at the first sign of a time zone change. When do you wake up normally? Try easing yourself into half-hour increments for a week to avoid the jolt of a time zone change. Stick to your normal food and beverage plan to avoid stress and digestive upset. Incorporate new things gradually. (I spent my week stuffing my face with seafood I don't normally get at home in the Midwest and drinking way too much rich coffee. I mean, #liveyourlife right?) Of course, I came back with heartburn and a night owl phase of going to bed at 1 a.m., so maybe don't look to me as a good example.
FIND YOUR COMFORT
Your daily routine, whatever it may be, can give your mind a sense of familiarity in a new place. Also, did you know that smell can help provoke memory and emotion? Do you have a specific scent of home? Try bringing it with you in the form of a candle or essential oils. Self care is about emotional care too, so making sure you're acknowledging when you're feeling sad or missing home a lot can help you come up with a plan to feel better. Being preemptive and packing the comforts of home, like a familiar blanket or family photos, can help you deal with the emotional stress of being away on an assignment. Think about objects that are important to you, and how you could incorporate the comforts of home into your day.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME
This is so important. We live in a world of on-the-go, run, run, run, fast-paced lifestyles, so it's natural to think we're just going to hit the ground running, like that plane landing on the tarmac. But, take a minute. Heck, take a week. Integrate yourself into your new surroundings and try to implement tidbits from your normal routine, instead of piling them all on at once on the first day.
DON’T GET STUCK IN VACAY MODE
It’s so easy to travel to somewhere new and get wrapped up in the thrill of it! With the excitement of new places and new faces comes that little voice in your head, “This is a vacation! ALL THE PARTIES!” But before you start chilling poolside, double-fisting margaritas, maybe take a moment to reassure yourself: This is your new home. This is your job. You are here for more. Know your purpose and you’ll enjoy your time both working and exploring that much more.
BUT IT’S OKAY TO RELAX TOO
Okay, I’m not going to be a fun-hater. (Hi, I like margs too!) All work and no play isn’t ideal, and just because you’re here on assignment doesn’t mean you should be all business! This is about self-care, after all. Which means I am encouraging you to soak it all in and relax! It’s okay to get excited about a new place. That means you get to explore cool places and experience new things. Allowing yourself the space and freedom to truly live your life on your terms will help you make the most of your experience, while keeping you on track with your job too. Let yourself have fun!
TRY NEW THINGS
Speaking of experiencing new things and letting loose, now would be a good time to try a new self-care habit. Are you always super tense after traveling? Make time to get a massage upon arrival to your new destination, or find a local yoga hot-spot and check out a class. Do you have a lot of pent up energy? Try implementing a workout routine that helps you lower your stress and decompress from your move. Ugh, stress. Yes. Do you have stress? (Hint: we all do.) Treat yourself to a quiet, nice meal out, or buy some fancy chocolate and veg out on the couch.
Self care looks different to everybody. The important thing is to invest your time, money and energy into what you love and what helps you become your happiest, most productive self. That way, you’re fresh-faced and ready to rock your assignment, explore your new locale, and live it up on your terms.