As a 2019 Eisenhower Fellow, I’m traveling intensively around the United States for six weeks, visiting fourteen cities and attending anywhere from two to five meetings each day. Do you like intensity? Here we go!
At the beginning of the journey, I, along with the twenty-two other Fellows from Latin America and Caribbean Program, stayed in a beautiful resort in the Poconos, close to Philadelphia, where we had the opportunity to learn more about the science of well-being with Henry Edwards, author of the forthcoming book “The Daily Better: 365 Reasons for Optimism.” We shared self-care strategies we hoped to implement on the road, and for me, they are very simple. I call them the five pillars of self-care.
1. Drink water
During a hectic schedule full of meetings, something as basic as drinking water is easy to dismiss. Drinking water seems unimportant in comparison with how much else you need to do. To stay hydrated, carry a bottle with you and make sure you take the bottle to meetings. While on the road, it may be hard to find a place to buy water or you won’t have time. Trust me, I don’t! Have your own bottle and make sure it is full of water. Fill in the airport and drink water during flights.
Your brain is 75% water. Keeping yourself hydrated helps you think faster and makes you more focused.
2. Eat healthy
It can be hard to eat healthy during a stressful trip. You are already stressed, why not give yourself a break and eat a piece of cheesecake and have a milkshake before bed? That’s OK if it’s not a daily indulgence. It’s very easy to find excuses to treat yourself with loads of sugar during stressful trips. Be aware that sometimes it may be hard to eat healthily. In airports, especially, it is really hard, as the food offerings are generally limited. Think about your decision in a spectrum: there is no such thing as the perfect food. Make sure the foods you choose fall on the healthier side of the spectrum.
Eating healthy is a way to take care of yourself and maintain your body’s natural immunity levels, so it can handle jet lag and weather conditions changes. Fill your body with nutrition, not calories.
3. Sleep well
Make sure you not only get enough sleep, but also a good quality of sleep. Keep your devices far from your bed, avoid the urge to check Instagram, get a book and go to bed. This will give you more restful sleep during the night. Sleeping well is vital and increases your overall well-being. Don’t neglect this basic need.
Exercise during heavy schedule travels seems a faraway possibility. You packed your running shoes and the best athletic clothes, but they are still sitting there, in your luggage. Make sure to exercise. You don’t need to keep up the same amount of training you have when you are at home. Just show up! Do you have 10 minutes? Show up! Move your body. I learned from John Ratey, author of “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,” that exercise combats stress leaving our bodies and minds more resilient and focused. Even three minutes of jumping jacks can boost your brain and release stress.
Meditation is a new habit I’m building. I’m meditating every morning for 10 minutes before I start my day. The effect it has already had on my well-being and mental health is incredible. Meditation practice reduces stress-related conditions such as anxiety, which is unfortunately very prevalent these days. Neuroscientists studying meditation found that meditation actually grows your brain, building new, stronger connections. This change can increase your memory, attention, self-awareness and self-control. I use Headspace app to guide me through my meditation. Give yourself a 10-minute treat, sit tall and breathe.
It’s basic and simple. These five pillars are easy to implement and don’t require much time and energy. But trust me, they are essential to your emotional, physical and mental health.