Jet Lag Survival Tips

I touched down last Sunday night in my hometown airport after 10 days traveling through Hungary, Austria and Germany. Needless to say, I was DEAD tired when I finally arrived at my tiny Nashville studio apartment. Fortunately, I decided not to try to do what I usually do and go back to work on Monday morning with the severe jet lag - instead, I took a day of staycation on Monday (and struggled to stay awake the entire day while doing all my trip laundry.) Then Tuesday morning bright and early, it was back to the real world with a vengeance.

Now that it is FINALLY the weekend, I think my body has accepted the fact that I’ll be staying in the hometown timezone for a bit. After visiting (NOW 18) countries over the past 10 years, I’ve experienced some serious jet lag from time to time… but I’ve also learned how to fight back.

The Jet Lag Golden Rule (Rule #1): DON’T TAKE A NAP

This is both the hardest part of adjusting to a new timezone when you land in another country and also the hardest part of adjusting to your home timezone when you get back from a trip abroad. I know how tired you are, and how good and cozy your bed looks…. but don’t even think about it! Make your bed, go walk around outside, keep yourself moving, get in lots of coffee and/or tea, but don’t even think about going to sleep for a “quick power nap” at 6pm, because you’ll find yourself sleeping until about 3am the next morning…. oops (been there). If you HAVE to take a nap because you fell asleep on the stairs of the museum when you were trying to do the right thing and keep yourself moving (been there too), then try a short one in the early afternoon so that you can go to sleep at a decent hour in the evening.

Jet Lag Rule #2: Health, Wellness and Activity

The trifecta of jet lag weapons: pretty simple, yet highly effective. When the sun is shining, be outside in it as much as you can. When there are vegetables and fruits on the menu, order them. And when you have the choice between the walking tour and the bus tour, consider the walking tour in those first few days in a new timezone. If you are feeling sick or just exhausted after the big international flight, it’s ok to postpone clubbing until 6am for a few nights so that you can get into bed at a reasonable hour and get well (…and so you’ve got the energy for that club run later in the week). In a nutshell, life on the road can be tough on your body, so try to give it some healthy fuel, some rest and some love and it will do a much better job fighting jet lag for you.

Jet Lag Rule #3: Cut Yourself Some Slack

This may have happened to me in the past and I just didn’t notice it as much, but after arriving back in the U.S. after this particular trip to Europe… I WAS SO HUNGRY I LITERALLY COULD NOT EAT ENOUGH FOOD FOR THREE DAYS. From Monday to Wednesday, I think my body decided that both U.S. and European mealtimes now applied to me, and we were going to eat a LOT at every single one of those. I’ve been trying to eat a bit healthier and exercise this year, so I was really beating myself up about this three day binge. But in the grand scheme of things, who cares? This mentality also applies to you if you accidentally broke jet lag golden rule #1 and took a nap… the reason naps are not a good idea is that they just extend the time it will take you to adjust to the new timezone. So you made a mistake, and it may take you an extra day or two to feel 100% yourself, but don’t beat yourself up too much. Our bodies are pretty resilient, and as long as you focus on health, wellness, activity and sleeping at the right times (and cut yourself some slack if you accidentally eat 3,000 calories on day one of a timezone switch) you will likely defeat the jet lag pretty quickly.

What tips do you have for battling jet lag? Feel free to share in the comments!