As an executive, maintaining your mental and physical health is critical, and often goes overlooked. When you add the demands of business travel during an unpredictable pandemic to the mix, focusing on your health becomes even more challenging.
Whether it’s lack of sleep due to jetlag, the lack of time to exercise, or that hard-to-resist cheesecake at a client dinner, it can be tough to make the ‘healthier choice’ while traveling.
Stress and fatigue, nutrient-deficient meals, excessive alcohol intake, and insufficient hydration can all impact our cognitive fortitude and physical agility. Few things are worse than feeling sick in the middle of a high-stakes meeting, miles away from home.
Your success in the office and abroad are inextricably tied to your overall well-being. Practicing sustainable, healthy habits both at home and on the go is imperative. Below, we’ve curated some of the most common unhealthy travel mistakes, and some healthy habits to swap them with for a successful business trip.
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A Traveler’s Guide — Unhealthiest Mistakes vs. Healthy Habits
The Mistake: Skipping Breakfast
A grab-and-go fried breakfast sandwich might not be your smartest choice; however, entirely skipping breakfast is a common mistake many travelers make — and later regret.
It’s not without reason that breakfast is hailed as the most important meal of the day, benefiting the mind and body and mind in more ways than one. It provides a source of glucose for energy, boosts your metabolism for weight control, and helps you make better food choices throughout the day.
Some travelers will rely on a quick cup of coffee as a meal replacement, while others may wait until lunch for their first meal of the day. Unfortunately, both of these habits are detrimental to the body and are a massive opportunity cost, as the benefits of a nutritious breakfast in the morning are irreplaceable.
The Habit: Healthy Breakfast Options
If you’re typically in a time pinch in the mornings, wake up 20-30 minutes earlier to ensure you have time for a proper breakfast. Eliminate time-wasting habits, such as scrolling social media, and utilize that time to feed your body with the sustenance it needs to power through the first half of the day.
When booking your business hotel, check their dining options, as many may include complimentary continental breakfast. If not, check for nearby cafes and restaurants that offer nutrient-rich selections. Healthy breakfast choices can consist of:
- Fresh fruits and raw nuts
- Whole-grain cereal
- Soft boiled eggs
- Smoothies or parfaits
The Mistake: Skipping Exercise
Business travelers tend to neglect their physical well-being abroad due to a hectic schedule. Despite many hotels offering a host of amenities to stay active, most would prefer to just jump in bed after a day of back-to-back meetings.
A common mistake many business travelers make is treating corporate trips as holidays and overindulging in poor choices like excessive amounts of sugar and alcohol. Any form of activity in these circumstances is helpful, counteracting your diet while also giving you some distraction-free time to yourself.
The Habit: Stay Active Outside The Gym
If hitting the elliptical isn’t part of your daily routine at home, it’ll be challenging to incorporate it into your itinerary while on the go. However, taking care of your physical health while traveling is essential to be on your A-game. So here are some of the best ways to stay active without stepping foot in a hotel gym.
- Walk: Most things will be within walking distance if your business travels are in a busy city. Something as simple as swapping the escalators and elevators for the stairs can make a huge difference. You can also find a local park and take an afternoon stroll whenever possible.
- Swim: make it a point to try and book a business hotel with a pool. A morning or evening swim is a great way to get your blood circulating — and a great calorie burner! Also, if you happen to be on the coast, a beach swim is a great way to spend your free time while staying active.
- Yoga: some hotels provide yoga rooms and on-site yoga classes — the best way to destress after a long day and clear your mind while remaining active. An excellent option for both the mental and physical self, yoga is the perfect “me time” that you’ll soon realize you really need while traveling for work.
The Mistake: Too Many Cocktails
Out of one thousand American employees surveyed in 2019, more than fifty percent admitted to becoming inebriated after their meetings. Whether it’s a glass of wine on the plane or a cocktail at a networking event, the opportunities for intoxication are boundless.
Between the pressure of joining the ‘next round,’ the culture of cracking open a bottle of champagne to celebrate an achievement, or sharing wine at the dinner table with a prospective client, corporate travelers are typically surrounded by alcohol in some shape or form.
While it may be enjoyable at the moment, a martini here and a mule there is typically regretted the next morning when it’s time for a full day of back-to-back meetings. Alcohol also tends to create a domino effect of other poor health choices, with diet and sleep. It also dehydrates the body, especially when travelers are already at a high risk of consuming insufficient water.
The Habit: Swap the Cocktail with a Mocktail
It can be difficult to avoid alcohol when there’s pressure to join in on drinking, for example, in a networking setting; however, mocktails are always a great alternative. It prevents your body from the detriments of alcohol, keeps you on your A-game, and, best of all, you won’t regret it in the morning.
If alcohol is impossible to avoid, the simple solution is to minimize your consumption and limit yourself, replacing some of your drinks with alternatives — moderation is key here. Here are great cocktail alternatives that can easily be made non-alcoholic:
- Mojitos - replace the rum with sparkling lime soda
- Mimosas - replace the champagne with sparkling orange soda
- Mules - replace the vodka with alcohol-free ginger beer and club soda
- Cranberry Coke
- Roy Rogers
- Shirley Temple
While not as harmful as alcohol, travelers should also monitor their coffee consumption as its another factor in dehydration. Drinking a generous amount of water and staying hydrated are essentials to a successful business trip.
The Mistake: Poor Sleep Schedule
Whether you’re exploring the city late at night or you lose track of time with your coworkers, lack of sleep is a huge contributing factor to travelers' fatigue. Poor sleeping environments, excess caffeine, and potential jet lag are nightmares to deal with — both for your health and the success of your business trip.
The Habit: Prioritize Your Rest
Planning for the change in time is a great way to beat jetlag. Here are some tips and tricks to combat the new time zone:
- Sleep on your flight if you’re airborne during your destination’s night time
- Avoid napping throughout the day so that you can be ready to sleep at night
- Minimize your caffeine intake in the evening
- Consider melatonin to stay asleep at night
- Make sure you have a comfortable sleeping space
Being in a new environment can make getting a restful night of sleep challenging. Here are some great tools to keep in your luggage for any long-haul travel, as well as some tips to sleep well:
- Noise-canceling headphones
- Ear plugs
- Sleep mask
- Neck pillow
- Request a corner suite to minimize external noise
- Avoid white and blue light before bed
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks
Your physical and mental health is your priority. Listen to your body and nourish it with sustainable healthy habits while traveling and at home. If you feel spread too thin, exhausted, or have any symptoms of a cold approaching, heed the warning and take additional care of yourself.
Eat well, sleep well, hydrate your body, and stay active; when you protect your wellbeing, it’ll reflect on the success of your trip.