If you want to feel less stress on your next long trip, quit grumbling. Once we hand the agent our boarding pass and board the flight, we can do nothing to obtain more comfortable seating, reduce the length of the trip, eliminate turbulence, delays, or lost luggage. What we can do, however, is take care of our body so that we minimize the effect of the flight.
A speedy recovery from a plane flight is dependent on the way we approach the flight itself and the steps we take to restore our energy and “decompress” after we reach our destination.
With a bit of planning, you will not experience jet lag, or if you do feel somewhat drained after flying, you will recover quickly. If ignored, the effects of jet lag can hang on for days, and it may take your body’s internal clock considerable time to reset so you once again feel normal.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, and then to the gate. Allow for delays at check-in and security. If you are running late and racing for the gate, you begin your trip stressed, rather than relaxed. Do yourself a favor by scheduling your time to allow a few minutes to unwind and compose yourself before boarding.
The cabin of an aircraft is an especially dry environment, and dehydration contributes to jet lag. Increase your fluid intake for 24-to-48 hours before your flight and drink lots of water during the flight. To make sure you have access to plenty of liquids during flight, pick up a couple of bottles of water or juice after you clear security. It is illegal to take liquids through security checkpoints, but you can purchase what you need to stay well hydrated during the flight from vendors along the concourse. Try to avoid excessive caffeine by avoiding coffee, tea and sodas. These products have a diuretic effect, which accelerates dehydration. Avoid alcohol for the same reason. Who wants to arrive with a hangover?
Continue drinking lots of water once you land to replenish body fluids lost in the dry atmosphere of the flight. The longer the flight, the more dehydrated you are likely to be.
Move About In-Flight
Always obey the seat belt signs and it is a good idea to stay buckled up when seated, however, when it is safe to be up and move about the cabin, do so. Try to stretch, walk a bit, bend and flex your muscles to get the circulation moving in your legs and feet. If you have a change of planes or a stopover during your flight, take advantage of the time to walk and stretch your legs or do some exercise in place. A bit of exercise will help offset stiff muscles and aching joints, which can extend your recovery time from the effects of the flight.
Keep Your Mind Occupied
Watch the inflight movie, read a good book, take a nap, sip a glass of wine while reading the in-flight magazine or visit with your seatmate. The point is to keep your mind occupied. Boredom makes whatever the length of the flight, seem like an eternity. If your brain is engaged, time flies.
Wear Comfortable Clothing
Avoid wearing restrictive clothing. You will want to be able to move freely, appear fashionable and appropriately dressed for the culture and climate of your destination, while feeling comfortable in your garments. Wear well fitting, comfortable, flat soles shoes. You may have to run to catch a flight and remember feet swell when flying. If swollen feet are an issue, consider packing a pair or two of compression socks in your carry-on.
Be Aware Of Your Arrival Time
If you are traveling to a different time zone, beware of your departure and arrival time. If you are scheduled to arrive at your destination late in the day, try to avoid sleeping on the plane so that you are tired when you arrive and ready for a night’s rest. If you are catching the “red eye” or a night flight, and arriving early in the AM, attempt to sleep on the plane so you will arrive rested and refreshed.
Do not take over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills except on the advice of your healthcare provider. If you do take medication, take with plenty of water and make sure to take it at a time that allows enough time for the medication to wear off for you to be alert at landing. You do not want to arrive at your destination with a medication-induced headache or fighting the “mind-numbing” effects of sleep medication.
If you arrive in the morning, indulge in caffeine and avoid taking a nap in the afternoon. Caffeinated sodas, tea or coffee, will keep you going until evening when you can then go to bed at your normal sleep time. Reversely, avoid caffeine-containing beverages if you arrive in the evening hours so it will not disrupt your typical sleep pattern.
Set the thermostat to slightly cooler than normal, crawl under the covers and allow time for 8-to-10 hours of sleep on the night of your arrival. Use a sleep mask to block out light. Use earplugs if needed to depress noise, and attempt to go to bed and to get up at the same time your would at home. Use an alarm clock or leave a wake-up call if you are concerned you will oversleep.
Get Some Exercise
The morning after your arrival, incorporate some time for exercise into your morning. Go to the gym, swim in the pool or take a short walk; anything to get you up and moving. Get out in the sunshine, if possible. Lights, sounds and activity will assist in resetting your internal clock. Remember to drink plenty of water or sports drinks to replenish electrolytes.
Arrange A Helpful Schedule
Try to schedule meetings or events at your travel destination based on the time zone from which you depart. As an example, if you live on the West Coast and have to schedule an appointment in an East coast time zone, set the meeting for 1PM or 10AM in your home time zone. That way you will be focused and alert; able to do your best. This is step is especially helpful if you are taking a brief trip with a rapid turn around time.