by LESLIE BARRIE, JUNE 24, 2019
You’re ready for the perfect getaway: You’ve booked your flight (and are prepared to snag a first-class upgrade on the cheap), secured your Airbnb, and you’ve even researched the running trails and fitness studios within walking distance of your stay. The only things separating you from the relaxing vacation of your dreams are…the heaps of work you still need to plow through, a yet-to-be-packed suitcase, and a schedule filled with all things social. Simply put, you’re busy AF. And then it happens. A day before your big getaway, you feel a scratch in your throat or maybe a little stuffiness. All that pre-trip hustle has left you worn down—or worse: You’ve caught a cold or the flu. Ugh, you think. Why now?
Obvious alert: No one wants to start a vacation feeling less than 100 percent. Less obvious, though, is the idea that no one really has to. Below learn how to prevent getting sick with six tips you can put to use now.
While a primary goal of your getaway might be maximizing relaxation, that doesn’t mean you should wait till you check in at your destination to start catching up zzz’s. “Many people deprive themselves of sleep before a trip with the intention to catch up during their flight or vacation, but sleep is so crucial prior to a big trip,” says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, a New York City-based physician. “You need to remain well-rested prior to any major travel to have enough energy for the trip itself.” After all, sleep deprivation can negatively impact your immune system and contribute to sickness.
Leading up to your trip, stick to your typical sleep routine as closely as possible, says Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe. Consider setting timer on your phone to remind yourself to go to bed if you need—any strategy to make sure you’re logging enough is worth your effort.
A common reason pre-work travel can compromise sleep is the tendency to scramble to finish tasks. While Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe contends it should be a priority to ensure work doesn’t add to a sleep deficit, she adds that it should also not add extra stress to your current load. Working around the clock to prep your work ahead of being OOO may make you seem like and feel like a star employee, but if what you’re doing at the office is making your stress skyrocket, it’s not worth it. “Stress can have a harmful impact on the immune system, making it more likely for someone to fall prey to illness,” she says.
Your solution? Make a point to incorporate calming activities in your pre-trip routine. It could be something as simple as a quick two-minute walking meditation or a DIY face mask before bed.
Need to make a run to the drugstore to load up on mini toiletries? And get a pedicure so you’re ready to rock those new sandals? Yes and yes, but, when?, you wonder. “Instead of just making a massive to-do list, actually schedule those pre-trip tasks in your calendar,” says Lindsey Pollak, career expert and author of The Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace.
Most people are aware of their typical personal snags that materialize before departure. So anticipating those tasks in your calendar, kind of like a macro-level packing list, can keep your stress levels and immune system strong. On the work front, block out time in your schedule for all those last-minute miscellaneous tasks that crop up, like setting your away message on email, communicating your action plan while away to your team members, and making sure your responsibilities are covered. “You’ll want to save an hour the day before you leave to do those things that set yourself up for success,” says Pollak.
“If you work out every morning, keep your regular habits, but it’s not a time to start something new,” says Pollak. That includes all in on a new, intense workout modality or a new nutrition plan. In fact, regardless of any upcoming vacation plans, “going to an extreme is always wrong,” says physician Neil Schachter, MD. While loading up on veggies is a great way to maintain a healthy status going into a trip, layering on a whole new eating routine right before you go will only add strain to an already tense time.
While you likely got your PTO approved by your manager, you coworkers, peers, and direct reports might not be in the loop unless you communicate your plans. Since sharing your plan last-minute can lead to lots of requests (and a potential super-late night) before you head out, send an FYI email to your team at least a week in advance of your time off. This will help cut down on fire-drill tasks that can contribute to anxiety and a less-than-ideal amount of sleep, Pollack says.
Have a to-do list that seems daunting? Take stock in all the items, prioritize them, and then be realistic about what can get accomplished. “One thing I like to do is triage, and ask myself, ‘What do I need to do?’ ‘Where do I need to be?’ and ‘What can I put off?’” says Pollak. Because, sure, it feels great to skip town with an empty to-do list and inbox zero, but in practice, that’s not always necessary or possible. “Be realistic on what you can pass along, what you need to do, and what can be done when you get back,” she says. Furthermore, trusting your colleagues and accepting that life can go on without you is a great exercise in letting go.
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