Flying on a plane can be exciting ― especially if you’re venturing to a new place or going to visit people you love ― but it can be stressful at the same time. With delays, cancellations and COVID-19 still lurking around, understand that it’s OK to have feelings of uncertainty. You’re not alone.
Having a self-care routine in-flight can be beneficial for your mental and physical health. These small acts to take care of your body and mind can help you regain a sense of calm, and ease the stress of traveling. Not to mention a flight might be the only time you have to prioritize yourself.
We spoke to experts for their tips on in-flight relaxation and rejuvenation ― without annoying your seatmate. Here’s their best advice:
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Do some writing.
It may be tempting to tap into that in-flight WiFi as soon as you hit the air. However, take a pause and consider if you can disconnect from social media or work emails, said Dr. Nina Vasan, the chief medical officer of Real, a mental health platform.
She recommends spending some time offline to focus on the present, and journal how you’re feeling. Write about the things you’re excited about or what’s worrying you currently. You can also follow a few prompts, like “if someone described me, what would they say?” or “when I look in the mirror, what do I see?” (Here are a few other options.)
If that doesn’t feel like your speed, try writing a letter to a friend. Thinking of a loved one is associated with more positive emotions ― combine that with the therapeutic effects of writing and you have yourself a beneficial way to tick down the minutes of your journey.
Try box breathing.
Deep breathing is a practice that can evoke a sense of relaxation. Israa Nasir, a psychotherapist and founder of “The Well.Guide,” recommends trying a “box breathing” exercise in order to get your body to physiologically calm down.
“The technique involves inhaling for four counts, holding your breath for four counts and exhaling for four counts either through your mouth or nose,” she said. Repeat as often as it takes to feel yourself unwind.
Indulge in your skin care routine.
“A skin care routine is a form of self-care that can feel therapeutic and soothing,” said Dr. Zain Husain, a dermatologist in New Jersey. Spending time to take care of your skin can help you take a moment to reflect or even wind down to rest.
When you’re flying, take the opportunity to try a face mask or massage your skin with a face serum. “Airplanes can be dry environments, so remember to keep your skin hydrated by applying a moisturizer as needed,” Husain said.
Take a nap.
Travel can be hectic and oftentimes you may have to make compromises, especially on sleep. Getting some good shuteye is an important aspect of self-care that rests and recharges your body.
“Use the flight time to close your eyes and catch up on sleep or simply rest. Wear ear plugs or listen to some calming music to help you disengage from the world around you,” Vasan said.
For added comfort, Nasir recommends wearing a sleep mask to help your body wind down.
Taking care of yourself involves staying hydrated as drinking water is essential for positive physical and mental health, said Supriya Lal, a registered dietitian based in New York. Being dehydrated can contribute to low energy levels and headaches.
After you clear the security checkpoint, remember to grab a water bottle or refill your reusable one. You can also request water during in-flight beverage service when you’re on board.
Try meditative coloring.
Meditative coloring is a practice that induces quietness and mindfulness by resting your mind, explained Nasir. It creates a space to allow you to creatively express your feelings while boosting your mood. Research shows that coloring can also relieve stress and can help you sit with imperfection (who really colors exactly in the lines?) ― all important mental health benefits.
Nasir recommends packing blank pages and coloring tools in your carry-on to use on the flight.
Read a book.
Enrich your mind by picking a book of your favorite genre to read on board. Reading can allow you to focus and promote a sense of calmness, Vasan said. Plus, it’s a great escape from the real world (which is definitely not calm right now).
If you don’t have time to grab a physical book prior to boarding your flight, aim to download an e-book on your phone or tablet.
Eat something delicious.
Eating when you’re hungry is a crucial aspect of taking care of yourself. “However, this can be challenging while traveling given time zone changes, potential delays, and availability of food options on the plane,” Lal said.
When packing your carry-on, remember to add some snacks you can munch on to satisfy your hunger, she recommended. Or grab something you enjoy from the airport, like candy you don’t often eat. Use this as a distraction-free time to savor what you’re noshing, rather than rush through it.