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by Linda Aksomitis

How to Keep Your Energy Up While Traveling

Some business trips can zap all your energy. I've been there-I've returned home to family commitments that seemed like a chore; social engagements I avoided even though I booked them months ago; and the regular weekend cleaning a job more daunting than cleaning out my son's bedroom. Here are some tips to make sure it's only jet lag you have to recover from when you arrive home.

If you've been unlucky enough to land a milk-run flight, like I generally do when leaving Saskatchewan, you'll spend most of your departure day in airports. This usually results in a few things:

· Your meals have been irregular, with snacks on and between flights.

· You've spent a lot of time in stuffy airports or sitting on airplanes.

· The atmosphere has been anything but conducive to relaxation as you stand in line or rush to get connecting flights.

The first thing to do after arrival at your destination, before you've even unpacked, is to get outside in the fresh air. Walking has many advantages: it's an aerobic exercise that conditions the heart, improves muscle tone and strength, relieves stress, can help with back pain, osteoporosis, and many other conditions.

Of course, if you had late flights you may arrive in a strange city at night, when it may not be wise to walk alone. In that case, take advantage of the exercise room provided in most hotels. A stationary walking machine is standard equipment. Just fifteen minutes of aerobic activity on it will help shake the bloated feeling that often occurs after sitting all day in airports.

Aerobic activity also reduces stress and stress-related impacts on the body, through the production of endorphins. Endorphins have both neurological and spinal effects, partly by helping to improve the circulation of blood in the body. They also have an anti-aging effect achieved by removing Superoxide from the body, and keep the brain cells young and healthy.

Once you're done your aerobic activity, use your unpacking time as a cool-down activity, since it's not a good idea to just flop into a chair after exercise. Not only will you feel better knowing you haven't forgotten anything as you put your belongings in place, but your wrinkle-free outfits will have a chance to recover from their trip.

If you have meetings planned with co-workers or clients later in the evening, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, if you're not used to dining late, but have arranged to get together over a meal, make sure you stick to something small and easily digested, even if you're feeling famished-fruit is the most easily digested of all foods, with vegetables being second. A steak is one of the most difficult.

Second, avoid alcoholic beverages, restricting yourself to virgin cocktails or herbal teas with no caffeine. Alcohol may decrease the time required to fall asleep, however studies indicate that consuming alcohol as long as six hours previous to bedtime will disrupt the second half of your night's sleep.

Sleep is divided into several different states, alternating between REM or dream-sleep and deeper sleep. The fourth stage of sleep is the deepest level, but the one where the disruptive effects of alcohol have the greatest impact. Lack of deep sleep causes alertness problems, memory deficits, and many other health disorders. In other words, getting a good night's sleep is extremely important.

So, how do you ensure you'll sleep in a strange bed in a new city? Many travelers regularly pack a pillow to ensure comfort. While I've never tried it, I do several other things that I find helpful.

A nice long soak in a hot bath before bedtime is an excellent start to a good night's sleep. Sleep experts have discovered that sleep deepens as the body temperature drops, so that by increasing the body temperature just before bedtime, you can help induce Stage IV, deep dreamless sleep that will help you feel refreshed in the morning.

Have you tried aromatherapy? It is the use of scents, often in the bath water, to reduce stress and induce relaxation. When you inhale an aroma, the odor molecules drift towards the olfactory receptors, which are sensory pathways opening directly into the brain. Utilizing the limbic system, these odors often trigger memories and can influence moods and emotions. You may need to try several different aromas before you find the most effective one for you.

Used in the bath, the scents are often part of an essential oil package, which can have other benefits, depending on the type you choose. You may want to find an oil with a herb such as chamomile to help you relax after a hectic day. Or, if you have that sore-all-over feeling after traveling, try an oil with rosemary or mugwart in it.

I know I often try to pack far more into a business trip than I should-and you're likely the same. However, each day should include:

· Downtime to allow you to relax for at least half an hour or more doing something you enjoy.

· Exercise time of at least half an hour, which can be a quick walk, another visit to the exercise room, or a speed-trip through a nearby mall.

· Regular mealtimes. Don't try to squeeze your exercise or personal time out of your lunch hour just because you're going to have a snack bar to eat. Skipping meals will cause lots of problems later on, as well as throwing your blood sugar levels [which influence energy] out of whack.

Package up any pressures or deadlines you can't deal with while you're out of town, and put them at the very back of your mind. Stress is one of the major contributors to many health problems, so develop positive ways of coping with the things you can't change.

Make each evening as relaxing as your first one, and you should end up on your flight home feeling just as rested, or even better than when you left.

--Linda Aksomitis is a freelance travel writer, as well as fiction and nonfiction writer. Previously she was the sales representative for a sewing machine company, traveling to many different North American locations.

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