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Self Care on the Journey

caricture of Dr. Joel Polinsky

raveling locally or globally, many of us need reminders of how to care for ourselves. I have observed in my work that many people do not take the time to nurture themselves, that is to care for themselves in a meaningful way. Increased anxiety is associated with the stressors of a fast-paced life, technology that can invade privacy and the rigors of living in overcrowded cities. Communications technology in particular keeps us in a virtual office twenty four hours a day, wherever we are. Today's lifestyle envelops us and depletes our energy.

Many of us need to take an inventory of how we are doing, and how we are tending to ourselves. What are our resources for optimal well being? Eating nutritionally, getting sufficient sleep and good hygiene are essential. Knowing your body and its requirements for sustenance are key factors. Individuals differ when it comes to what their bodies require in terms of food and sleep. If in doubt regarding food, the advice of a registered nutritionist can be invaluable for the proper nutrients and foods for you. Some respond best to high protein foods, some respond best to vegetables, grains, and fruits. The right amount of sleep differs from one person to the next, but adequate rest is a major factor in well being.

Exercise is invaluable for regulating blood pressure, increasing endorphins, maximizing good chemistry and energy. Physical activity can also decrease melancholy, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Attention to physical hygiene also contributes to well being. Keeping your body, clothes, and surroundings clean is important for balance, good health and empowerment.

Mental hygiene includes the things we remember to do for ourselves. Taking time out to renew and revivify is very important. Something as simple as sitting quietly and focusing on breathing in and out can invite inner calmness and serenity. Many call this meditation. A main objective of meditation is to be "in the moment" not thinking about the past or the future, be here now. As little as five minutes of meditation can decrease blood pressure and anxiety. There are many other therapeutic interventions for self care and centering, such as positive self talk, affirmations, art, music, slogans, humor, soaking in a hot bath, a steam bath, sauna, nature, touch, massage, allowing oneself the permission to be in touch with our feelings and spirituality contribute to harmony.

Playing and having fun--the language of children--is also part of caring for ourselves. Attention to self empowers one to invest in peace of mind and a loving heart. The important thing is to take or make the time to care for ourselves at home or on our travels.



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Dr. Joel,

I found your Self Care on the Journey article to be most illuminating. I am single, and someone who lives to travel. But whenever I get off the plane to an international destination, check in to my hotel, unpack and then get a chance to sit down… I feel mundane, depressed and disoriented. I didn't state this very well, but it is much more than jet jag. It's gotten to the point where I worry months in advance before a trip, and now am even tapering my travels back. I have never heard your term, "mental hygiene" before, but it seems to make sense. Rather than just sit on my bed and fight sleep, I am going to try focus on self-awareness as you suggested. I think your term, positive self talk --- which I have never heard of either --- is worth a shot. I loved the positive tone of your article and agree that 'playing and having fun' is something that we all need to concentrate on. Please keep up the great work!

Brian Hogan

Hi Brian,

Thank you for your response to the article I wrote for Travelling Boy. Com, Self Care on the Journey. The symptoms you are experiencing could be attributed to several variables. One thing that comes to mind is unresolved issues. Something you are concerned about or have not addressed before going on the trip. At times when one travels the expectation, planning, and the excitement of going away may divert our attention away from something that needs to be worked through. Hence, we take it with us on the journey.

Another thought could be that you have sensitized yourself to expect to get negative symptoms when you arrive at a destination. You say you get depressed, disoriented and feel mundane when you get to your room, unpack and sit down. You could also be experiencing a sort of hyper jet lag. When we get fatigued after a big trip the arrival could be a let down too. With all the planning, packing, getting to destination etc, we expend much energy. The draining feelings you are having could recall a former experience that might be connected to the symptoms. Also at times we all experience what I would call a mood that feels like an existential vacuum.

Take an inventory of what you think it might be connected to. That could help you get to the root problem. Change your pattern of how you do things; be in touch with your feelings. Utilize interventions like breathing exercises (yoga techniques), thought stopping/blocking (this is done by clearing your mind or redirecting thoughts and actions) so you do not perseverate on the negative thoughts. Take care of yourself by being good to yourself. Instead of sitting on the bed soak in a hot tub, listen to music; make a plan to have some fun. Change thoughts, change behaviors and you will again optimize your enjoyment of travel. So once again you can continue to be someone who lives to travel.
Bon voyage and best regards.

Joel


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