Don’t let jet lag put a damper on your adventures abroad this summer. Learn a travel expert’s tried-and true tips to help combat fatigue, and leave you refreshed for your trip!
This post comes to us from Natalie Shukur.
For the past five years, I have been zigzagging across time zones, living between Australia and New York, with jaunts to everywhere from Bali to Tuscany in between. And while my packing skills are pro and my airport uniform is perfectly distilled (slouchy pants, light layers, cashmere, good socks and slip-on shoes), the actual art of flying never gets easier. No amount of frequent flying can accustom your body to jet lag but, through my countless crossings over the dateline, I have mastered a few tried-and-true practices and remedies to beat that groggy, foggy exhaustion-causing malady otherwise known as desynchronosis.
What causes jet lag? Travelling from west to east (westbound journeys are the worst offender) upsets the body’s circadian rhythms, our body clock that operates on a 24-hour cycle and affects such things as sleeping, waking, appetite and temperature. Anything you can do to calm the nervous system and ease the body clock into its new time zone is key… dealing with the symptoms can help you feel a bit more refreshed in the meantime.
Tip #1: Eat well and hydrate. Try and eat nutrient-rich, light and vibrant foods before and during travel, and as soon as you get to your destination. If the body has to digest salty, sugary, processed airplane food, carbonated drinks and copious in-flight Bloody Marys, it’s going to be less capable of dealing with your jet lag. Avoid dry foods (here’s looking at you mini-pretzels) and aim to eat warm, moist meals where possible, plus lots of good fats. Food allergies, digestive issues, dehydration and hangovers all impair your body’s ability to cope with jet lag. I bring fresh homemade snacks (nuts, an avocado, hummus, quinoa salad) with me on the plane and drink plenty of water… and maybe indulge in a glass of red wine on a long haul flight, because I’m only human. Take a few lemons on board to infuse your water and keep your body in detox mode, and aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water.
Tip #2: Tea is your friend. Herbal teas can be potent remedies and are easy to tote when traveling. Use relaxing herbs such as chamomile, lavender, valerian and lemon balm to help you rest on the plane and before bedtime in your new time zone. Warm nut milk with a little nutmeg and ginger is also a great pacifier, or try a blend of the Ayurvedic herbs jatamansi, tagara and ashwagandha — taken in warm milk or water for a few days after you land. When you need perking up, reach for peppermint, spearmint, ginseng, rosemary, lemon and ginger.
Tip #3: Oils are essential. Like herbal teas, essential oils can help you doze off and awaken more easily, and are a really comforting cure to have on hand when you’re stuck in a tin can at 30,000 ft. I like to use a peppermint-mandarin blend to calm and center myself. Dab a few drops onto your palms and rub together (careful not to touch your eyes!), inhale and exhale deeply through the nose, then create a cup with one hand and place the other hand on top, making a tunnel shape; breathe in and out through your mouth as if sucking air through a straw. Lavender and sage oil are great relaxers, and rosemary and grapefruit are refreshing when you’re feeling disoriented. I also like to take a little bottle of Ayurvedic body oil containing calming and grounding herbs to balance the vata dosha, which is often disrupted by travel, leaving you feeling flighty and irritable. Rub a little on your temples, back of neck and soles of your feet to connect yourself to the earth element and help you sleep.
Tip #4: Soak up the sun. Nothing beats jet lag like a good dose of vitamin D and ultraviolet light. If you land during daytime, splay yourself out in a sunny spot, pronto. Sunlight helps to reset your body clock and stimulates the receptors in your brain that make you feel more alert.
Tip #5: Make time. An oldie but a goodie: aim to acclimate to your new time zone as swiftly as possible, even as you reach your departure airport. If it’s possible, sleep and eat on that time zone from the moment you start your journey and keep to it when you arrive.
Tip #6: Move through it. Exercise is essential for improving circulation, enhancing regular sleep patterns and oxygenating the body after a long flight, as well as giving you a happy hormone hit. When you land, do something invigorating to break a sweat and get the heart rate up, ideally outside. Go for a walk, run, cycle, take a barre class or jump in the ocean if you’re near the beach.
Tip #7: Yoga, everywhere. Unless you’re staying in the most petite of Parisian hotel rooms, you can practice yoga anywhere, including many airports (such as San Francisco, which has a dedicated yoga room). In my experience, yoga does serious wonders when it comes to beating jet lag and I often travel with an lightweight yoga mat that folds neatly into a suitcase or can be rolled up for carry-on. As far as asana goes, try some rounds of cat cow to wake up the spine, downward dog to stretch out the hamstrings, sun salutations for circulation, side-angle pose and triangle to open up the side body, supine twists to wake up the digestion, and finish with a shoulder stand or legs up the wall to calm the nervous system (and de-puff those ankles).