June 20, 2012

Wellness Wednesday-In Flight Travel Tips

For some people travel is one big headache with regards to the stress and exhaustion of moving through several times zones. Others who have battled with headaches prior to travel will often find that the strain and bustle of travel leaves them with intense headaches or migraines. A sore head is a challenge in itself but when you're away from the security and comfort of your home surroundings, it can be more unpleasant to deal with headaches.  The following are some travel tips on dealing with what to wear, how to deal with stress, sleep, diet & dehydration, pressure changes, and getting a bit of exercise while on the airplane.
What to wear

What do you wear on the plane? No, seriously, it's not a rhetorical question: what do you wear on the plane?
I ask only because there was a man on my most recent flight---and we're talking a grown man, one who likely pays taxes, has his driver's license, and is capable of growing a beard---wearing plaid flannel PJ bottoms. Granted, it was a long flight, but really? Plaid pajamas on the plane? Oh, I'm sure they're comfy, but so are corduroys.
It wasn't so long ago that people dressed up for air travel, placing it on the same level of sartorial seriousness as an important dinner date or a job interview. For this reason I've always taken my "airplane outfit" seriously.
My emphasis is placed on comfort, style, and plain old common sense rather than anything else. So here are my rules:
 Long pants-no Capri’s or shorts
If you are going to wear a skirt be sure to wear leggings
 Shoes that can be slipped on and off easily (and---or at the very least or---thick socks. Have you seen those airplane bathroom floors?)
 No white. Or cream. Or beige. In fact, head-to-toe black is often the safest way to go.
 Layers for peeling on and off (airplane AC is notoriously fickle)
No dangly earrings (in fact pocket the ones you have on-they often fall off after resting your head)
  Pashmina (which ties very neatly to a bag handle like a scarf, thus freeing up valuable real estate in your carry-on) in case the blankets have all been taken by the time you board.
Nothing sloppy or slobby---one should always hold out hope of getting upgraded (hint: if they're considering you based upon appearance, apparently the shoes are where they look first. Sneakers probably won't make it into the Business Class cabin.)
 No plaid pajama pants. Ever.

Dealing with Stress

Crowds, noise, bright lights and delays are all small stresses that can add up to one big headache or migraine. Anything stressful can potentially cause a headache and bright lights and noises are notorious migraine triggers. These perils of travel are inevitable in most cases, so it's best to find ways to cope with the discomfort of travel stress. Be sure to pack sunglasses or a soft 'blackout' band to wear over your eyes. Not only can this help you to avoid glaring lights, but it can also help you to sleep. Look for ways to keep busy during delays. Grab a cup of tea, a bite to eat and a magazine. Some airports even have spa and massage services, so if you're willing to splurge a little, you may wish to obtain a massage. You will feel much more relaxed and may ultimately be thankful of the delay.

Trying to Sleep

Lack of sleep contributes to headaches and when it's prolonged, as it may be during travel, head pain can be quite frustrating. If you're not one of those lucky few who can sleep through the flight, try to obtain even a little bit of sleep by blocking out noise with earplugs, and avoiding any stimulants such as caffeine. The supplement melatonin has been suggested as a sleep aid for jetlag, but talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, even over-the-counter ones. Some of the standard anti-nausea medications that travelers use for motion sickness also have the side effect of drowsiness, so you may find that once your tummy has settled, you are pleasantly sleepy and able to have a nap.

Diet and Dehydration

For people who experience migraines, avoiding food triggers is often a major lifestyle focus. Airplane food is often loaded with food additives to preserve the food and these can prompt painful migraines. It's generally wise to bring your own food whenever possible. Don't avoid eating because low blood sugar can further exacerbate a headache. Keep a variety of healthy non-perishable snack foods in your bag for when you travel. Nuts are an excellent choice loaded with fiber, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, as well as protein. Fruits and bite-sized vegetables are also an easy snack to transport and you can conveniently munch on these throughout your flight. Be sure to drink water frequently, as dehydration can cause headaches. It may be difficult, but try to avoid the temptation to have that glass of wine to help you relax. Alcohol influences blood sugar and causes dehydration; it also can lead to withdrawal headaches so do aim for non-alcoholic beverages whenever possible.

Dealing with the Changes in Cabin Pressure

Pressure changes can lead to airplane headaches. Both cabin pressure changes and altitude can cause severe headaches, particularly sinus ones. Swelling in the sinuses from pressure changes leads to physical pressure on surrounding areas in your face and triggers headaches. Ear pressure can also contribute to headaches and is a common complaint during air travel. To address pain from headaches, you can bring over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen. These should provide relief although try to find one that doesn't include caffeine, as caffeine's diuretic effects can be particularly dehydrating during travel.

Get Moving

Sitting for long periods of travel can leave muscles all over your body feeling cramped, tight and sore. Airplane seats are hardly known for comfort and your shoulders, back and neck may become very stiff, leading to tension headaches. Sometimes, the effects of travel are felt for days afterwards; your neck and back area can remain tensed and you may experience a dull headache that never quite goes away. Whenever possible during travel, try to take a little walk around. On a plane, you can usually walk up and down the aisles every so often to release tension in your legs and spine. There are even airplane yoga  poses you can perform on an airplane. Most are done from the privacy of your seat, so there is no need to worry about making a spectacle in the aisles. The following is a list of in-flight exercises that help to increase the body's blood circulation when you sit for long periods of time on an airplane.  

1. Ankle Circles

Lift feet off the floor. Draw a circle with the toes, simultaneously moving one foot clockwise and the other foot counterclockwise. Reverse circles. Rotate in each direction for 15 seconds. Repeat if desired.
2. Foot Pumps

Foot motion is in three stages.
1. Start with both heels on the floor and point feet upward as high as you can.
2. Put both feet flat on the floor.
3. Lift heels high, keeping balls of feet on the floor.
Repeat these three stages in a continuous motion and in 30-second intervals.
3. Knee Lifts

Lift leg with knee bent while contracting your thigh muscle. Alternate legs. Repeat 20 to 30 times for each leg.
4. Neck Roll

With shoulders relaxed, drop ear to shoulder and gently roll neck forward and back, holding each position about five seconds. Repeat five times.
5. Knee to Chest

Bend forward slightly. Clasp hands around the left knee and hug it to your chest. Hold stretch for 15 seconds. Keeping hands around the knee slowly let it down. Alternate legs. Repeat 10 times.
6. Forward Flex

With both feet on the floor and stomach held in, slowly bend forward and walk your hands down the front of your legs toward your ankles. Hold stretch for 15 seconds and slowly sit back up.

7. Shoulder Roll

Hunch shoulders forward, then upward, then backward, and downward, using a gentle circular motion.
With a little bit of prior planning, you can ensure your travel plans don't lead to headaches and migraines. This means less worry about head pain and more time spent enjoying your arrival in a new place. Happy and Safe Travels!
Resources:  Qantas.com

1 comment:

  1. this is very good advice, especially on dressing appropritley for airline travel. what are people thinking wearing their pajamas!!


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