Self-care for business travellers

A look at ways to avoid burnout for those who are regularly on the move.
 Self-care for business travellers

Jet lag, stress, and a lack of proper nutrition and hydration can lead to physical and mental health problems for the frequent business traveller. That is why it is important to practice self-care while on the road, or in the air, on a regular basis for work.

Jason Geall, vice-president and regional general manager for Northern Europe at American Express Global Business Travel, cited a recent research study from the company which noted that many travellers say business travel is stressful and report returning home exhausted.

“From constantly readjusting to new time zones to dealing with the stress of various modes of transport and adapting to a strange city and hotel room, frequently travelling for business can be disruptive and have both a physical and mental impact on travellers’ wellbeing,” Geall said. “Furthermore, unhealthy foods, little exercise, and an unsettled sleep cycle can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety.”

Geall and Ruth Edwards, a health coach and chief executive of the UK Health Coaches Association, offer steps that can help mitigate the physical and mental effects of frequent business travel and avoid burnout.

Maintain your regular nutritional and hydration routines. When away from home, it is tempting to choose alcohol over water and sugary foods over healthy snacks, Geall said. Entertaining clients can often lead to more frequent consumption of alcohol, and the food offered to conference goers may not be the healthiest, he pointed out. “All too often, we forgo our routines and stop taking care of ourselves. It can have a negative impact,” he said. Simple things like drinking water while travelling and choosing healthy meal options will reduce the effects of jet lag, boost the immune system, curb appetite, and restore dehydrated skin from the dry aeroplane air, Geall said.

Create a travel plan that minimises stress. Travel, especially by plane, can sometimes mean early starts and late arrivals. Missed flight connections and delays simply add to stress and anxiety. Geall suggested planning travel that allows ample time for flight transfers and occurs at optimal times of day in order to reduce stress on the body whenever possible.

In addition, allow time on either side of a trip where the time zone changes to allow the body’s circadian rhythms to reset, Edwards said. Whenever possible, also leave time in your daily schedule while travelling to allow for downtime, regular meals, and a good night’s sleep.

Practice breathing exercises or meditation, even if just for a few minutes. Breathing exercises can provide a reset for stressed bodies. Deep breathing restores oxygen to the cells, which can even help lower blood pressure, Edwards said.

A host of apps now provide simple meditation tools at the touch of a button. Geall recommended Simple Habit, a five-minute meditation tool designed with busy people in mind. “Five minutes will relieve nerves before takeoff, relax your mind before sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, or centre yourself before important meetings,” he said.

Use that hotel gym. Choose a hotel that offers 24/7 gym access and use exercise to relieve jet lag, burn off stress and anxiety, and boost energy, Geall said.

Already burnt out on business travel and guilty of not practising self-care? Take small steps to improve your habits, and the change will come. “Change is within everyone’s grasp, but don’t see it as one big mountain to climb. Keep changes small and daily, with a goal in mind,” said Edwards.

Lea Hart is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at