Getting acclimated to a new time zone, especially when the time you’re spending in your destination is limited, is one of the biggest challenges of constant travel. Whether you’re on a flight for work once a week, or you’re city-hopping for a European vacation, you don’t want to lose time to jet lag. The key to being able to handle getting acclimated, according to most wellness professionals, is to commit to taking care of yourself and listening to your body. Oh, and to be prepared.
That means, if you’re the kind of the person who always walks off a long flight with a headache, you should be traveling with ibuprofen. If you’re often parched while traveling, bring an empty water bottle in your carry-on or your day bag. If you’re all-too-susceptible to plane germs, take echinacea before you board your flight.
Admittedly, these might not seem obviously related to jet lag. But it’s important to remember that any elemental challenges you encounter while traveling can set you back when adjusting to a time change. Heading these challenges off will enable you to fully focus on your task at hand—whether that’s sight-seeing for the day or presenting at a meeting three hours after you land—without jet lag slowing you down.
Here are a few jet-lag hacks that come recommended from wellness professionals:
This goes for both on the flight and when you arrive at your destination. Lululemon ambassador Meghan Monahan, author of newly released DON’T HATE, MEDITATE! advocates for meditation as her go-to jet-lag cure. “The deeply restorative nature of meditation is one of the best things you can do for your body during a flight and is a great way to set yourself up for success when you land,” she said.
Monahan stressed that flying strains both your body and mind, which is why meditation is so crucial. “As tempting as it is to binge on the four movies you've been dying to see, sit and meditate periodically throughout your flight (at least once!),” she advised.
She also encouraged goal setting, perhaps before or after your first travel meditation session. Setting intentions can help your body focus on why you need to acclimate to your new time zone. Monahan provided some intention-setting prompts for travelers, too:
“What is the purpose of your trip? What version of yourself do you want to show up to your destination as? Anchor into a mindset that you want to empower to be what sponsors your thoughts, words, and actions,” she suggested.
Hydration is one of the most overlooked ways to combat jet lag. And that doesn’t just mean drinking water. It also means trying to reduce dehydrants like caffeine and alcohol while traveling. “Bring your own bottle and fill it up at the airport and when the flight attendant offers you a four-ounce cup of water, kindly ask to have your bottle filled up,” said Monahan.
When you land, continue to keep a water bottle with you, and if you do want to integrate caffeine into your travel routine, be deliberate about when so as not to throw off your sleep schedule. Use the Timeshifter app to figure out when to consume caffeine while adjusting to a new time zone.
When your body is exhausted from a flight and your itinerary is jam-packed, fitting a run in or stopping by the hotel gym isn’t exactly appealing. Start setting yourself up for success by moving around on your flight. “Get up and take a walk (walking to the back of the plane to ask for more water kills two birds with one stone),” said Monahan. “Do some spinal twists in your seat, stretch your arms above your head. This will all help your body handle the flight”
When you get to your destination, chart out a couple of workout sessions, even if that just means getting up early to take a walk around the city. If you’re traveling for work, you might even see if your go-to classes or workout spots have an option in your new city. Alternately, you can see if your hotel offers complimentary yoga or explore their gym.
Limit blue light consumption
The blue light that comes from laptops, television screens, or your smartphone can mess with your body clock more than you might think. For your travel day and your first few days in a new place, be aware of minimizing screen time. If you can’t fall asleep because of jet lag at midnight, resorting to scrolling through Instagram or watching television on your laptop isn’t ideal for combating jet lag.
Align your meal schedule with your new time zone
One way to do this is by changing your watch before you even depart. When you get to the airport, set your devices to your final destination’s time zone. Then, if you’re going to have a meal on the flight, you can ensure you’re preemptively aligning your eating schedule to the time zone you’re heading toward. When you’re handling a significant time change, hunger often keeps you up (or wakes you up) because your body is accustomed to eating at specific times. The sooner you can adjust this, the easier it will be to start sleeping through the night, which is arguably the best way to get on a new time zone.