How to Stay Resilient as You Begin to Travel Again

Posted 06.07.2022

Last week, in one of the regular online office hours I conduct for leaders in our in-person programs and online courses, I got a really important question via chat from one of the participants. Here it is verbatim:

One of my questions leading into the summer is any tips/guidance for how to bounce back if your travels take your routines out of sync. How do you bounce back? (i.e., traveling/road trips, attending big family events with food/drink outside normal routine, not able to get normal physical routine in).

That’s a great question because pretty much every organizational leader (and a lot of other people too) will be dealing with it in the months to come. Business travel is picking up. People are going on vacation this summer after two plus years stuck at home. And, like me, you probably know a bunch of people who will be travelling once or twice a month this year to attend all of those weddings and other family gatherings that were postponed due to COVID.

All of that is awesome, but it does raise the question that was raised to me – how do you sustain your health, resilience and well-being while all of that travel takes you out of those healthy routines you may have established while being stuck at home these past couple of years?

My suggestion is to come up with a plan and approach for yourself that is based on three time frames: before, during and after.

Before that business or personal trip, take some time to look at your itinerary through the lens of maintaining your resilience. What’s coming up on the trip that could challenge it? For instance, your wake-up times might be earlier and going to bed times later. You may be in situations where you’re eating and drinking in ways that you haven’t while you were staying home. Your time for exercise might be less.

Once you’ve identified where the vulnerabilities in your itinerary might be you can make some plans to mitigate them. That could look like setting some boundaries on how many late nights you’re going to commit to or calling ahead to the hotel to see what the easy and close by options are for exercise. It could be looking online at the menus for the restaurants you’re going to eat in to see in advance what the healthier options are for you. Some advance planning before you go can keep you from stumbling into in the moment choices that can slam your resilience.

During the trip, accept the fact that you’re not going to get 100% of 100% of the physical, mental and other routines that help you sustain your resilience when you’re back at home. Instead, remember to enjoy the trip for the reasons you’re taking it in the first place and give yourself some grace when your daily routines don’t attain perfection. (And when do they ever, really?) Rather than knocking yourself out or beating yourself up about sustaining the perfect balance of nurturing routines, look for alternatives that are “good enough” while you’re on the trip. You’re probably not going to get many 100% routines in, but there’s an excellent chance that you can work in routines that are 50%, 25% or even 10% of what you usually do. Not perfect, but good enough for the time of the trip and way better than not doing anything at all.

For example, your optimal physical routine might be a 2-mile run every afternoon but the schedule on your trip doesn’t give you enough time to lace up, run and then shower and clean up for dinner. Fair enough, how about a 20-minute walk around the hotel property instead? It’s not your optimal routine, but it’s way better than heading to the bar for a snack or a drink during those 20 minutes. It’s all about looking for ways to meet your needs that don’t require you to be your usual version of perfect.

After the trip, give yourself a shout-out for the good choices you did make and forgiveness for the ones you didn’t. Recognize that everything is temporary including the trip you were just on. If you did a great job taking care of yourself while you were away, yay for you! Keep going! If you had a little too much fun or pushed yourself too hard and are feeling the effects, no worries. Take your eyes off the rear-view mirror and focus them on the windshield. What’s coming up next is way more important than what you’ve already done.

In my Office Hours answer, I mentioned that I’m a fan of Michael Gervais, a sports-performance psychologist who works with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Gervais makes the point that when a quarterback throws an interception or a linebacker misses a block that leads to a sack, they can’t afford to dwell on the bad play because there’s another series of downs coming up in a few minutes or another play in a few seconds. You’ve got to let it go and get ready for the next. The same principle applies to all of us who aren’t in the NFL as well. What’s happened has already happened. What matters more is what you do next. If, after your trip, you need to compensate for the choices you made while you were away, the good news is you get to do that starting today.

What other strategies do you have for sustaining your resilience as your schedule starts to pick back up? If you’re reading this blog through LinkedIn, leave a comment so we can all learn from you. If you’re reading this directly on the Eblin Group blog, send me a note and I’ll share your ideas in a future post.

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.