You know how they say on an airplane to make sure your own oxygen mask is fully on before you try to help someone else with theirs? There’s a good reason for that! On an airplane, if you’re running low on oxygen, your brain will soon get foggy and things will become more difficult, even simple tasks like putting an air mask over your mouth and nose.
The same thing is true even when you’re not on an airplane. Travel nurses and other traveling medical pros need to first take care of themselves so they can provide the best care for their patients. But how do you take care of yourself first?
Self-Care Travel Tip: Find Yourself a Comfy Place to Sleep
Sleep is life. Sleep deprivation means more than just being tired. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you are at risk of memory loss, inability to concentrate, as well as a bunch of health concerns like higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and more.
If you’re in a hotel and are having problems with loud neighbors that are making it harder to sleep, talk to the management about moving to a room away from others. If that doesn’t work, consider moving to a different hotel, even if it’s a pain to do. Sleep is that important.
If you work nights and sleep during the day, it might be best to stay in an AirBnB or other place where you don’t have a lot of neighbors. If there aren’t any blackout curtains, consider buying your own (they’re pretty cheap at most big box stores) and hanging them yourself. If you don’t want to install a curtain rod, you can actually find removable brackets that hang up with Command Strips so you don’t need to be handy to get them installed.
We’ve heard stories of some traveling pros sleeping in their car to save money. Don’t do this! It’s unlikely that you’ll get a good night’s sleep in your vehicle and you could be putting your patients at risk because of sleep deprivation.
Self-Care Travel Tip: Don’t Forget to be Active
Exercise is more than just good for your body. It’s good for your entire self. Studies have shown that exercise helps improve depression and anxiety and relieve stress because it kicks up your endorphin levels, improving your mood. Regular activity also helps you sleep better.
It might be hard to find ways to keep active while you’re traveling. If you can find a gym with locations all over, that’s ideal. But what if you’re in a really small town and can’t find something? A hotel gym will typically have a few pieces of equipment like a treadmill, a bike and some weights that can help keep you active. But if you don’t have access to a hotel gym, something as simple as going on a hike can be enough to kick start those endorphins.
Self-Care Travel Tip: Watch What You Eat
They always say you are what you eat and traveling can make it more difficult to eat healthy food. Instead of running to a drive thru every day, consider packing a few small kitchen appliances that will make hotel cooking a breeze.
If you’re able to, look for a hotel or extended stay that offers at least a mini fridge and microwave. There you can keep a few staples and warm up some leftovers. Then, add in something like a countertop kitchen appliance that can handle a few different cooking methods, like air frying, grilling or slow cooking.
If you’re not able to cook for yourself, look for ready-made meals that you can toss in the microwave. It’s possible to find some that meet a variety of diets so even if you’re eating paleo or vegetarian, you can always find something that fits your needs without a lot of stress.
Self-Care Travel Tip: Don’t Forget to Relax!
If you’re working a lot, don’t forget to just take some time to relax. Whether that means binging some Netflix for a few hours on your day off or going to the spa, there’s definite value in making sure you have time to do nothing each week.
Some travel pros report that they send their laundry out for service or hire a cleaning service for their AirBnB so they can protect what little free time they have. Don’t feel guilty about hiring help where you can—you’re working hard far from home.
We’d love to hear your favorite self-care tips! What do you do to stay healthy and happy during travel assignments? If you’re in our #TeamTriage Facebook group, hop on over and let us know what self-care means to you. Not in the group? It’s exclusive for Triage travelers so search our allied and travel nurse jobs (now with pay listed) and then chat up your recruiter and find an assignment today.