So, you’re making BIG travel plans this year. Yay! Not to burst your bubble or anything, but jet lag is REAL – can last an offensive amount of time, and tends to make functioning at a basic level feel like the task of the century. It just can, I’m sorry. We know this. The more we deny it, the more likely we are to make our two-week getaway to the South Pacific an epic travel fail. Don’t take off before preparing yourself for an adjustment first! Here are a few ways to safe-guard your trip against total annihilation from jet-lag, from in-flight prevention to post-flight self-care.
Don’t Overdo It On The Alcohol and Caffeine
(before your flight and during)
Number one reason why: These substances are super dehydrating. Add to that being in a super dry cabin for hours on end, evaporating moisture from your skin every nano-second, and you have way higher chances of feeling hung over, headachy and parched when you land. Flying can do all kinds of rough things to your body – the change in air pressure can cause bloating, stress on your ears, and that your body takes in less oxygen, so go easy on the wine and don’t compromise your post-flight physical state even more. You will thank yourself.
Do Breathing Exercises
We tend to experience a drop in blood oxygen levels when we fly due to low cabin pressure, and this can make us feel wonky for a long while afterward. Download a free app like Stop, Breathe and Think to guide you through some breathing exercises while you’re in the air so you can stay feeling grounded and lucid.
Keep Your Fluids Up – Obvi
According to the Aerospace Medical Association, we need to drink about eight ounces of water (or, 1 cup) for every hour we’re in the air. Which is entirely doable, right? Don’t skip this step – it’s maybe the most important part of keeping gnarly jet lag symptoms at bay. It’s majorly dry in airplanes. It’s said that 50% of the air circulating in a cabin is pulled from the outside, and at high altitudes, it’s basically completely devoid of moisture. So, hydrate every hour on the flight (not just Perrier, not just Diet Coke – water!), and continue hydrating once you land to make up for lost moisture.
Bring a Sheet Mask
(so even if you feel like death, you won’t look like it)
There must be no shame in your in-flight sheet mask game. You will have the last laugh, I promise! They turn the lights off for most of long flights, anyway! A soothing, de-puffing mask like Sephora’s cucumber eye sheet masks is awesome for flying. You can use it with their Rose face mask which is super hydrating and feels like a hug for your face.
Go for Walks and Stretch (Get You an Aisle seat!)
Going for walks up and down the aisles regularly on long flights can help keep your energy levels up, your circulation humming, and overall, just keep you feeling normal. Besides: sitting still for hours on end can really do some damage to the body – it’s said that flights of four hours or more can even be a risk factor for deep vein thrombosis. Get up and do a downward dog or two when you can.
When You Arrive, Go Outside, Feel The Air and Look at The Sun
Our internal clock can be easily influenced by our exposure to daylight, because our bodies and brains have literally evolved to sync with the sun. When you land at your destination, if it’s still daytime, step outside and look to the sky for a few minutes. Even on a cloudy day, you’re still soaking in some sun. The next day as soon as you wake up, step out and do the same thing. It’s said that it typically takes one day to recover from one time zone change, and symptoms intensify the more time zones are crossed, so expose yourself to the sun first thing in the morning for as many days as you need. Doing this can really help to anchor the body’s entire 24-hour cycle.
If You Can, Work Out Once You Land
Exercise won’t do anything to shift your body clock, but it can help to increase the quality and length of your sleep while you’re adjusting to your new schedule. After you’ve just sat on a plane for hours without moving, it might feel like the last thing you want to do, but getting even a quick workout of some kind in can help you get a better sleep that night. It’ll also pump you up with feel-good endorphins, which you could definitely use after a long journey.
Don’t Even Think About What Time It Is at Home.
Stay Present, Stay Engaged!
Don’t entertain thoughts of, ‘it’s 4 AM at home! How am I still standing!’ or ‘I’m so confused, I don’t know what time it is!’ This is not helpful thinking. Get your mind on board. You exist now in your destination. Be present! Aim to stay up until at least 8 or 9 PM the night you fly in and aim to eat normal breakfast foods at normal breakfast times for your destination, etc. Your thinking can influence this. The more you can mentally psyche yourself up to be in the present moment, participate in the events around you and do generally what everyone else is doing wherever you are, the more swiftly you can start feeling better. Act normal, even if you feel like death inside.
The First Night, Avoid Looking at Screens Before Bed
(And Take Melatonin)
Melatonin is the hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to wind down for bed, so taking 3 – 5 mg about half an hour before you want to go to bed – even if you’re dead tired, can help your body clock get back in sync. Also, if you tend to be a phone-gazer right up to the minute you fall asleep, put your phone at the other end of the room on your first night. Melatonin is easily suppressed by bright light, so keep your screen time to a minimum as long before bed as you can.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Kait Fowlie)