A big cause of stress is feeling like you have to be permanently ‘on’ and when it comes to travelling for work, that pressure can feel magnified.
In 2015, a study revealed that if not checked, there was a lot about business travel that could be stressful for a person, from jet lag to work worries, loneliness to not being able to switch off.
Switching off and managing your work-life balance at home is difficult enough, but while travelling, it can be even more tricky - especially since your work day becomes a lot longer, factoring in meetings and work-related dinners.
No wonder a lot of people succumb to anxiety around work - it’s a lot to take on.
Dr Chheda-Varma, psychologist at Nightingale Hospital says: “Not switching off means our brain does not get time to wind down from the adrenaline and cortisol that work generates. It remains activated and hence overworked.”
It’s a lot to ask for your mind to automatically relax - sometimes it needs a nudge in the right direction.
Dr Wendy Li, Psychological Health Lead Clinician at AXA PPP healthcare says: ”There is no magic solution to preventing nervous thoughts from running through your mind, but there are ways you can manage these more effectively.”
Meditation & Mindfulness
“We are often highly stressed and under pressure in terms of both time and performance,” says Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace the meditation app, when it comes to business travel.
He advocates meditation because “numerous studies have demonstrated that a regular meditation practice ― or mindfulness practice as it is sometimes known ― can help to reduce levels of anxiety,” he said, talking to HuffPost UK. “This is as much physiological as it is psychological, with the shape of the brain changing in a process known as neuroplasticity.”
The brilliance of meditation is you can do it anywhere (like your hotel room) and you can choose how long to do it for. Some mindfulness breathing apps last three minutes while Headspace has a great 10-minute programme.
Still not convinced?
Paul Lambkin, CEO, The British Mindfulness Institute says: “The benefits of regular meditation include greater vitality, enthusiasm and happiness, feeling calmer in the face of stress and challenges, more fulfilling relationships, greater resilience, improvement in communication, enhanced interpersonal relationships, more insight, creativity and clarity, more self accepting and self confident, increased focus and productivity.”
If you don’t have an app, her tips are: “Start with a one minute or three minute breathing exercise. This can be done any time of the day, at home or at your desk at work.
Start by sitting comfortably, with your back straight and eyes either softly open or closed.
1. Notice that you are breathing and fell the sensations of the breath.
2. If your mind wanders, no problem; just gently bring your attention back to the breath
3. Pay attention to where you notice the breath the most. Nose, chest or tummy?
4. Stay with the sensations of the breath. Then when you are ready gently open your eyes
Write It Down
Often if you have 100 different worries racing around in your head, it can feel overwhelming because you don’t know where to start. A great technique to drill into the biggest things causing you anxiety can be to journal every night before you go to bed.
Georgie Oldfield, Physiotherapist & Founder of SIRPA (Stress Illness Recovery Practitioner’s Association) says: “When you know you are going over and over something that is causing concern/fear etc, note these down briefly on a piece of paper and then rationalise them. e.g. what evidence do you have that shows that these fears are not accurate, what can you learn from them, what can you do to improve the situation etc?”
This immediately helps to order your thoughts. Andy adds: “Focus not only on what you’re worried about and still have to do, but what you have already done and feel good about. Each night, write down a list of things to do. The truth is, none of them have happened yet so save the worry until something actually goes wrong.
Alongside that list, write down the things you completed today, even if they are ongoing tasks. Over time, this can help to create a greater sense of confidence and balance in our perspective.”
This doesn’t need to be vigorous exercise, but something as simple as going for a 10-minute walk.
On a scientific level, the AADA (Anxiety and Depression Association Of America) says: “Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache.”
It will also give you a much-needed break from work emails beacuse spoiler: you can’t email and walk at the same time.
It seems counter-intuitive to take something else on if you’re feeling anxious and over-worked, but a number of experts swear by mentally-stimulating yet relaxing activities which give your brain a time-out. In the long term, it prepares your brain to relax and switch off.
“Just as we shower daily,” says Dr Chheda-Varma, “exercise and eat well to maintain a healthy body, daily routine for our brains can help manage stress and burn out. Relaxation time, engaging in mentally stimulating, but not stressful tasks (sudoku, crosswords, reading, etc) are important for our brain to work well.”