No matter the duration of your flight, it’s important to take good care of yourself. What you do—or don’t do—aboard the plane makes all the difference in the world when it comes to your wellness. To ensure that you stay in top form, follow these tried-and-true tips for self-care in the air.
Pre-flight, use your airport time wisely by practicing what Jim Nicolai, MD, author of the book Integrative Wellness Rules: A Simple Guide to Healthy Living, calls “breathwalking.” Instead of sitting while waiting for a flight, he uses breath and walking as a way to meditate. Breathwalking is simply taking your breath and syncing it with your stride. Take four simple breaths in, four simple breaths out—matching them with each stride. “Get into a rhythm, allowing your breath to be more in than out,” Dr. Nicolai advises. “If you can get your breath lower and deeper with your belly, your diaphragm acts as a vacuum and helps with your walk to circulate more fluid and relax you at the same time.”
Avoid the Bloat
We retain water when we fly (ever notice how much your hands and feet swell by the time you’ve reached your destination?), so be extra-cautious of what you eat the week before a long flight. Stay away from foods that are high in salt and caffeine. And definitely say “no, thanks” to airplane snacks and fare (those tiny bags of pretzels in particular) that tend to be super-salty. Pack low-sugar fruits like apple and citrus slices, as well as (unsalted) nuts and seeds, such as almonds and walnuts. PS: A little piece of dark chocolate never hurt anyone.
Stand Up & Stretch
Find a place where you can stand without disturbing other passengers, advises Lauren Munsch Dal Farra, MD, FACP, co-CEO at Saint Louis, Missouri–based Palm Health and creator of Active Release Meditation™. Lift your right heel up and roll your right foot up, starting from your toes. Then place your right foot back down. Next, lift your left heel up and roll your left foot up, starting from your toes. Then place your left foot back down. Do this four times on each foot. Next, place yours arms down by your side with the palms of your hands facing forward. Lean to the right side while keeping your head, neck, shoulders, arms, hips, and feet in line with each other. Gently bring your right hand behind your right knee as you lean to the right. Notice the tension in your left side and hip. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Actively breathe into your tension as you lean to the right. Allow gravity to pull you down. Ask your body to release this tension and let it go. Enjoy the stretch. Slowly come back to center. Repeat this exercise leaning to the left side. Do this three times on each side.
Hydrate with H2O
Always opt for water when asked for your drink choice by flight attendants, and get up and ask for it between offerings, advises Holly Lucille, ND, RN, who says drinking a lot of water also helps with circulation and fatigue. “Staying hydrated, and by that I mean drinking two cups of water per every hour of flight (and keeping your nourishment in control) is the key to healthy air travel,” she says.
Let Go of Tension
This seated exercise is great for releasing tension in your body, says Dr. Dal Farra. Sit squarely yet gently on your sit bones. Look straight ahead, with your head and neck relaxed. Become aware of the tensions in your body. Let your mind travel to the areas of discomfort. Feel them and accept them. Relax your tongue. Inhale through your nose and out your mouth. Place your attention on one area of discomfort in your body. Become aware of the tension and accept it. Then imagine that the specific area of discomfort in your body is “breathing.” Imagine this area expanding and contracting with each breath. Gently ask your body to release this tension and let it go. Then move to the next area of discomfort in your body and repeat.
Boost Your Immune System
We believe in the effervescent immune-boosting benefits of Airborne and Emergen-C, while traveling. Those powerful little packets are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and vitamin C—best of all, they’re super-easy to toss in your bag and take after you’ve settled into your seat.
Soothe Your Senses
Dab a little lavender oil on your trigger points. Lavender is a natural relaxant, promoting better sleep and helping to alleviate jet lag. There are lots of soothing aromatherapy products in roller-ball form that are great carry-ons. To help promote the health and energy of the nervous system, Dr. Nicolai recommends a good B-complex supplement, like MegaFood Balanced B-Complex.