Monday I depart for China!
I am super-duper, over the moon, completely stoked to go! Except, I’ve still got a bit of flight anxiety. And it’s not my usual flight anxiety; it’s the I-don't-want-to-die-of-a-blood-clot-on-board kind of anxiety. (Basically if there’s even the tiniest thing to worry about my brain makes sure I do.) So this week I’ve been researching and brainstorming ways to stay healthy while on my long haul flight, and I’m now sharing them with you!
#1 Compression Socks
I don’t have a history of blood clots in my family, and I’m not on any prescriptions that increase my chances of blood clots. So I’m not at high risk for blood clots. However sitting for any extended period of time causes your blood to stagnate, which increases the clotting risk. When we’re not on a plane, we have a lot of control over when we can move around. But on a plane, we have much less control.
For safety, sometimes the fasten seatbelt sign is on. Sometimes a drink or meal service is occurring and flight attendants are blocking your path. Sometimes you have a window seat and the two people next to you are asleep. So in lieu of being able to get up and walk around constantly, compression socks are a good alternative. When selecting a pair to purchase, make sure they aren’t too tight. If they’re painful, they’re the wrong size. Get socks that feel like they’re snuggling your legs, not pinching them.
#2 Walk the Aisles
Once in a while you do get an opportunity to get up! And please, take advantage of every opportunity. Not only is it good for your body (gets the blood flowing, gets more oxygen to your muscles), it helps your sanity. Sitting in economy for fourteen hours can absolutely take its mental toll. Humans are not fond of tight spaces, but the designers of coach class don’t care. Mayo Clinic recommends you get up every hour, but I find that unreasonable. (As I mentioned before meal service, fasten seat belt signs, etc. keep you from getting up.)
When the aisles are clear (and you’re awake), get up every hour. And if you feel weird about getting up and walking around, just pretend you have to go to the bathroom every hour (and pick the bathroom farthest from you). If you’ve just woken up, get up and walk around as soon as you stop being groggy.
#3 Drink Water (And Lots of It!)
One solution to altitude sickness is drinking lots of water because it helps blood flow (and therefore provides oxygen to your body). It’s just as important to keep up blood flow on a long haul flight.
So why only water?
Water will keep you hydrated, unlike coffee and alcohol. Carbonated sodas can sometimes make it difficult to breathe, which defeats the point of getting oxygen all through your body. Juice isn’t a bad idea, unless you’re a nervous flier—you definitely don’t need a jittery spike in blood sugar; that will just make you more anxious. So stick with the safe option of gallons and gallons of water. (Plus staying hydrated will motivate you to get up to go to the bathroom more often…)
#4 Practice Yoga
Any kind of physical movement you can do on your flight is good. Seated yoga is especially a good choice for relieving back and neck pain. The Art of Living has good suggestions for poses to do while in your seat.
If you’re not convinced that yoga is great or you feel awkward trying it out, any gentle stretching you can do is good.
Making very slow circles with your head will release neck tension. Even just stretching your arms over your head is helpful. Just be mindful you’re not invading your neighbor’s personal space.
#5 Use Noise-Canceling Headphones
Planes are LOUD.
The engine sound alone is enough to give you a headache. Not only that, you aren’t the only person on the plane. People are talking, children are crying, flight attendants are taking drink orders. And on top of that, you’re probably going to watch a movie, TV show, or listen to music.
All of that is detrimental to your hearing!
Noise-canceling headphones don’t just add sound on top of all the ambient sound (like normal headphones), they literally cancel the ambient sound out. How they work was explained to me in high school, so cross your fingers I can explain to you well enough now.
Sound travels as a wave. And pitch is determined by the height (amplitude) of the wave. Now if you add another wave that has the exact opposite amplitude of the first wave, the first wave will be completely canceled out. And that’s what noise-canceling headphones do—they prevent too many sounds from reaching your ears. (They’re also great for sleep!)
#6 Bring Your Meds in Your Carry-On
I feel this is too obvious to state, but just in case:
You can’t access your checked luggage during the flight. That’s because it is stored underneath the plane and not accessible from the body of the plane. So if you need your meds during your flight, you best have them in your carry-on or personal item.
And even if you don’t need them during your flight, put them in your carry-on anyway! Checked bags get lost all the time, and you don’t need your medicines to get lost, too.
#7 Bring Painkillers
Unless you’re flying in business or first class (you lucky duck!), you’re going to get uncomfortable. Your back will hurt, maybe your neck, legs, and bum, too. That’s just going to make your flight miserable. Don’t overdose on painkillers, but take as many as you need that are within safe allowances.
If you’ve found success with IcyHot or Bengay products, use those too. Just remember all liquids in your carry-on must be in containers that hold 3 ounces or less. You can always investigate acupressure as well as self-massage. A good massage to the temples can sometimes work wonders. There is a plethora of ways to ease your uncomfortableness without medications!
#8 Manage Anxiety
I have an entire blog post devoted to flight anxiety with several suggestions on how to cope and reduce it. Don’t forget to take care of your mental health too!
Do you have other suggestions for staying healthy on a long haul flight? Let me know in the comments!
Now get out there and go!