British Airways has revealed some of its top tips on how to combat the effects of long haul travel. This is in conjunction with the upcoming Beijing Olympics as British Airways, the official carrier for the British Olympic team, will be advising the athletes on how to prepare for the journey through the airline’s stress expert Neil Shah of the Stress Management Company and Dr. Sleep, Chris Idzikowski.
Neil Shah said, “On average up to 75% of travellers feel stressed when faced with travel tasks such as packing, preparing the family or facing an important event at their destination and that’s why it’s important to know how to deal with it.”
Dr. Sleep, Chris Idzikowski agrees, “Whether a tourist or an athlete, you can guarantee a fresh start to your time away by ensuring that you combat any jet lag or disturbed sleep patterns after long haul flights. The key to doing this successfully, and in a short amount of time, is to prepare adequately.”
Tips for Reducing Stress During Long Haul Travel
Manage your time: Plan ahead and create time buffers to deal with unexpected circumstances or emergencies. For example, travellers may encounter some delay on the way to the airport so be sure to allow plenty of time.
Use technology wisely: Use technologies that will save time, for example check in online and avoid the check-in queues.
Mental Preparation: Mental preparation is the key to ensuring that you get what you want from the experience you are about to engage in.
Your subconscious cannot differentiate between what is real and what is perceived. So if you imagine something vividly enough your body will respond as if you are actually experiencing it. You can learn the secrets of mental preparation and use them at any time of the day. All you need is five minutes to yourself.
Begin by closing your eyes and taking deep, measured breaths. To prepare for a relaxing holiday imagine that you are in beautiful surroundings - either a place you have visited or a place you conjure up from your imagination.
The key is to use all of your five senses to create your mental experience - see it, hear it, taste it, touch it and smell it. By practising this you’re ensuring when you do engage in whatever activity, you have already seen the results in your mind.
Practice this exercise for a few minutes every day, or use whenever you’re stressed.
Keep hydrated: If you’re feeling stressed, you might reach for nicotine, alcohol, caffeine or chocolate to calm you down. However, these substances all contain stimulants. Try instead to stock up on healthy snacks like fresh or dried fruit or nuts, and keep topping up your water. Water is essential for every body function and even more than usual will be required if you’re holidaying in the sun.
Our bodies dehydrate on long haul flights and it is extremely important to stay away from the caffeine and alcohol and sip on water throughout the flight to ensure you arrive at your destination in optimum state to enjoy your holiday.
Remain calm: When you face something unexpected when travelling abroad it is very easy to react negatively by arguing endlessly or by fuming silently. It is much better to take a deep breath, stay calm, and accept that there are some things in life that you just can’t change. Use your time more constructively, for example if you have to wait for a flight play ‘I spy’ with the children or do visualisation exercises.
Breathe!: A more than obvious tip, but when we get stressed we tend to breathe shallow and fast reducing our oxygen intake which can leave us with feeling of panic and anxiousness. Try breathing in to your belly for the count of 4, holding it for 16 and breathing out to the count of 8. This exercise balances the serotonin, the chemical that regulates happiness, in your brain.
Tackle signs of tension early: Stress can affect your neck, shoulders and back. These quick techniques can help avoid this:
Sit with your feet on the ground, back supported against your chair and hands and arms open and relaxed. Take a deep breath in, raise your shoulders towards your ears and hold them raised for a few seconds. Then slowly breathe out and drop the shoulders. Repeat several times.
Place your left hand on your right shoulder and squeeze gently. Repeat down the right arm to the elbow. Repeat several times. Place your right hand on your left shoulder and repeat the exercise.
Place the fingers of both hands at the base of your skull; apply slow circular pressures down from the base of the skull to the base of the neck.
It is important stretch and move around the cabin at least once every half an hour to maintain circulation and prevent cramping or more serious conditions such as DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis).
For more information about stress management, visit The Stress Management Society at stress.org.uk. It has a free 10-step guide to stress management, plus a free monthly newsletter full of tips about keeping relaxed.
Tips for Dealing with Jet Lag after Long Haul Travel
Be well rested before your flight: Going to bed at the wrong time relative to your internal clock and not allowing yourself enough time to wind-down are two main culprits for sustained jet lag. High intensity visualisation can help in these situations. It’s rather like the old-fashioned ‘counting sheep’ - except you really need to get involved with the scenes you are trying to visualise. Don’t just count the sheep; give each of them a character then try to figure out why they’re jumping or what the black sheep is up to.
Use light effectively: Jet lag is a good example of what happens when there is a mismatch between the internal biological clock (or the time your body thinks it is) and ‘real’ time. Sleep either doesn’t start when the body is expecting it to, or is too short in terms of what the body needs. As the internal clock is strongly influenced by light, the best way to control jet lag is by appropriate exposure to, or avoidance of, light at specific times of the day.
Modify your eating habits and exercise routines: Eating and exercise both help reset the body clock to the new time zone. It’s best to eat little prior to your journey - this helps makes the journey more enjoyable. When you get to the destination start eating according to the new time zone, this helps with adjustment. Exercising between late afternoon and early evening appears to be the optimal time to reset the clock more rapidly in a new time zone.
Don’t let your sleep be interrupted: If you wake up in the middle of the night and remain awake for an hour or two only to fall asleep just before it’s time to get up, try going to bed a little later and setting the alarm a little earlier. If you wake up and find you stay awake for longer than twenty minutes, get up and rest somewhere else, only return to your bed when you feel sleepy again.
Remember your danger zone: The time that you are likely to feel sleepiest and most likely to make mistakes is between 3-5 am of your home time zone. Be wary. Coffee can be a good antidote.