A good friend of mine was an emergency first response expert, dealing in oil disasters. For years he would have to leave home at a moment’s notice and fly to some of the world’s toughest environments.
It’s intense, working in life-threatening situations with constant anxiety and tension. If you’re going to survive, you have to manage the stress. Otherwise, you’ll burn out—which hurts you and the cause you’re dedicated to.
Recently, we compared notes on how the two of us, myself a public speaker and him an emergency first response expert, manage stress when we’re traveling. In one year I may take up to 50 flights to speak at international events, which takes its toll. We realized there were some similarities in how we prepare to show up as the best versions of ourselves no matter where we are going. The biggest unifying factor was rest—good, quality, uninterrupted rest.
But that doesn’t always mean sleeping.
1. Sometimes it means a big travel mug.
One of the most frustrating things about traveling is the cups never seem to be big enough.
When you want a large, warm, soothing cup of tea, the best you can get in a hotel room is a little paper vessel worth half a mouthful. So I always pack a large travel mug and ask the hotel for a kettle. This works perfectly for brewing my favorite tea after a long day of air conditioning on planes and in conference buildings.
And of course, like any proper Brit, I bring my own tea.
My favorite is a turmeric and ginger tea from Rishi. Anytime I’m particularly worn out, a cup of this warm magic helps restore my energy. It’s the perfect way to ease into a good night’s rest or wake my body up in the morning. It also reduces the inflammation of my voice after a long day of talking.
And having that key element of calm in my hotel room is a must.
2. Because most people don’t rest well in hotel rooms.
You’re in a strange environment, you have a major meeting in the morning, you’re wired from travel adrenaline—so you’re quite likely to toss and turn all night.
This means you’ll also worry about oversleeping once you finally drift off.
To counteract this anxiety, one of the early things my emergency first response expert friend and I do is plug in our phones. This way no matter what happens we have an alarm to rely on and a touchstone to remind us where we are.
The challenge? Many hotel rooms only have one plug socket and it’s across the other side of the room! We both take a long phone charger cable—at least 10 feet long—so if we wake up disoriented, we aren’t disrupting our sleep by shuffling around the room trying to check our phones. We can just roll over, check our phones, and return to sleep.
It’s a simple touch, but it makes for an improved night’s rest.
3. And of course, we can’t forget conscious relaxation.
My friend says no matter how stressful the day was, no matter how many disasters he dealt with at a time, he always allows himself 30 minutes of laughter.
This block is completely uninterrupted by any responsibility and is meant solely for pleasure. He’ll stream Netflix or download comedy specials on his laptop to watch in increments. It’s how he switches his mind off to reset and recharge for the next day. And he’s on to something—laughter activates and then soothes your stress response, so it helps to release extra tension from having fired it up earlier.
I also block out uninterrupted stress-release time—although I prefer meditation over comedy specials.
I like to use meditation apps—Headspace in the morning or Insight Timer in the evening. Either way, I follow about 10 to 15 minutes of guided meditation. It eases my mind and puts me in a balanced state so I can accomplish everything on my list the next day.
What works for you? I’d love to hear your best tips for performing at your best when traveling for work. Is there something important you always take, or a routine you aim to stick to? Whatever it is I hope it helps you to be your best self when you need to be.
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