Traveling Can Be Dangerous to Your Health! Maintaining Balance for Business Professionals Who Travel

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recent study from Harvard Business Review highlights the impact business travel has on employees’ health and suggests that “…if you have employees who are often between cities, you owe it to them to provide the education, information, tools and resources so they can maintain healthy lifestyles while on the road.”

Here are a few stats around business travel:

  • 20% loss of overall productivity due to travel
  • 92% higher risk of obesity for those traveling more than 21 nights per month
  • 6.9 hours of productivity lost per trip due to stress
  • Strong correlation between frequent business travel and physical and behavioral health risks

Travel Stress Index: The Hidden Costs of Business Travel, CWT

Let’s talk about a few key things that you can do as a business traveler to help reduce stress:

Hydration…Yes, Again
From a personal health perspective, you already know how important staying hydrated is, but are you doing it? The typical water target of half your body weight in ounces is a great place to start, but the key is in actually implementing this so that you are drinking water throughout your day. Make sure that you are drinking purified water, as you want to help your body to detoxify. You either use a filter or you body will become the filter.

Proper Breathing
Proper breathing means that you are breathing deeply, down below your belly button (you might put your hand there as you practice), while keeping your chest relatively still. Try inhaling for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. This will help to activate the calming side of your nervous system (called the parasympathetic nervous system) and reduce stress in a big way. In fact, all of the best stress reduction systems (e.g. Tai Chi, Yoga, Qi Gong…) have deep breathing at their core.

Best Fuel Possible
Most people that own an expensive car would never think of putting the cheapest fuel in it. Your body is WAY more valuable than any car, so make sure that you are giving it the best fuel possible. I understand that there are times when it makes sense to cheat and eat the not-so-good-for-you foods, and that’s OK…as long as it’s in moderation. Shoot for the 80/20 rule (80% of the time eating as healthy as you can). 

What does that look like given our culture’s fascination with the diet trend of the month? In general, eat things that grow. My recommendation is the Mediterranean diet as it’s stood the test of time. The trick is to eat:

  1. Good quality fruits and vegetables (organic where possible)
  2. Whole grains (very small amounts, if any) and 
  3. Healthy fats (natural ones – coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, walnuts, macadamia nuts…). Also make sure to get your Omega 3 essential fatty acids from fish, flax or other sources. Whenever you see the word essential with regard to nutrition it means that your body can’t make it on its own…you have to eat it. These particular fats are crucial to building healthy cells in your body.
  4. We really don’t need as much protein as you might think (depending on your lifestyle), so add some in the form of beans, nuts, lentils (if vegetarian) and/or good quality meats (organic, grass-fed) or eggs..

Stress Management
The reality is that we cannot control what happens to us, but we do have a big say in how we respond. Your first go-to response to any major stressors should be to breathe deeply. This will go a long way in helping your body process whatever is going on. Each of us has a favorite activity (or non-activity) that helps us to release stress. Examples include yoga, cooking, running, reading, etc. The key is to make sure you have this activity scheduled on your calendar and keep the commitment, as this is a priority, especially these days!

While I list cooking and reading as possible stress reduction activities, please know that movement is a requirement for true stress reduction. While it’s great to rest your brain with these types of activities, your body really wants to move. This doesn’t mean that you have to schedule an hour at the gym (though there are definitely benefits to weight lifting, aerobic exercise…), as simply walking can be all that you need to help with stress reduction. Many events already give us this option as we are walking quite a bit!

The other factor to consider about stress is technology. Yes, there are the typical social media challenges around looking at other people’s highlight reels that can move you toward frustration with your life, but I’m talking about something else. The EMFs (Electro Magnetic Frequencies) that are invisible yet have a HUGE impact on your body. 

Our bodies are way more electrical/energetic than we know and are sensitive to the constant barrage of these waves (think Wi-Fi, cell signals, cordless phones…). Your best approach is to keep your phone away from you as much as possible, and if you must keep it in your pocket, put it in airplane mode. This especially applies at night, where you’ll want to put your phone in airplane mode and keep it at least six feet away from your head. This one thing alone can improve your sleep.

Another great way to balance EMFs and help you body to recharge is to get outside into the sun, with bare feet on the earth. I know this might sound a little strange at first, but there is significant science that shows that we need the frequencies from the planet to function at our best. Give it a try and let me know…just 15 minutes a day can go a long way in helping you balance challenges such as anxiety or inflammation. You might consider doing this at a break when you are at the event.

Clean Your Filters
Your body is designed to filter out the toxins that you encounter in your everyday world. However, your body was NEVER designed to deal with the unbelievable amount of toxicity on our planet today. The main sources of toxicity are from:

  1. The food we eat – pesticides, herbicides, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), heavy metals, additives, preservatives, etc.
  2. The air we breathe – pollution, huge increase in pollen, mold, artificial scents (think plug-ins, candles…), etc.
  3. The water we drink – prescription drug residues, heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride, etc.
  4. Prescription drugs – these are often stored in your body for longer than you know

Your body is always trying to cleanse itself, but when it gets overloaded, it can result in issues with your organs of detox (liver, kidneys, colon…). 

Consider working with a natural health practitioner to begin a detox program to get things started on the road to better wellness.

Travel adds a new level of stress to what we’ve already covered and requires a few more healthy choices. You must plan ahead to reduce as many travel stressors as possible. Some examples include:

  1. Bring food/water with you if you can – especially when driving. This helps with the inevitable roadside stops that can result in unhealthy snacks.
  2. Be sure to pack some “just in case” supplements that you might need to help with issues around sleep, illness and digestive challenges.
  3. If you are driving, consider getting a bottle of good quality peppermint essential oil. This can be very helpful to smell if you start to feel drowsy when driving.

Your body is always trying to heal itself…all the time! Our mission is to make life choices that will support this and give it what it needs (nutrition, air, water, movement…) and take away things that are hurting it (low quality foods, shallow breathing, sitting all day, dehydration). 

When you care for yourself, you are not only looking out for your own health, but you’re also putting yourself in a position to perform best for your team, customers and the overall event success.

John Ayo

John Ayo is an Internationally recognized keynote speaker, wellness expert and author. He was a successful sales rep that survived in the super stressful technology sector with IBM for 19 years, then moved into sales training and meeting planning internationally for 12 years. He delivers his motivational content on staying healthy and sane in a crazy world (especially when you travel) via presentations and workshops for large groups and corporate events.

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