How to stay mindful when travelling on business
For many people, business trips can be an exciting opportunity to travel, meet new people and experience new ideas, but they can also be enormously stressful too.
A report published earlier this month by the International SOS Foundation, Kingston Business School and Affinity Health found that while 67% of workers reported being more engaged with their jobs due to business travel, a third (34%) of international business travellers (IBTs) are more likely to engage in a number of risky behaviours while away and 31% experience emotional exhaustion, on a weekly basis.
“The business opportunities associated with international travel are undisputed, but our research suggests that frequent travellers make three times as many claims for psychological treatment compared to those who don’t travel on business regularly,” said International SOS Foundation Director, Kai Boschmann.
“To foster business productivity and fulfil duty of care in a sustained way, organisations need to also understand how they can protect the mental health and physical wellbeing of their employees while travelling.”
One way to help protect the mental health of workers abroad is to encourage more people to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is about being in the present, not the past or future, and using this sense of presence in the moment to manage negative thoughts that can take over our minds and make us feel stressed, depressed or anxious.
When travelling for business, we are often worrying about our meetings to come or the historical issues that still need to be address.
By focussing all of our attention on the present moment – our emotions, sights, sounds, and bodily sensations – can help us to improve our mental wellbeing and build our resilience. Being resilient when working in a stressful environment is something we can all learn, so we can remain robust throughout our careers as well as life’s ups and downs.
AXA PPP Healthcare Psychological Health Lead Clinician, Dr Wendy Li, has prepared a series of mindfulness tips for people who are travelling for business:
- Sit in a quiet place. Turn off your phone. Bring the focus back to you. This is your time, other demands and distractions can wait;
- Notice any thoughts, feelings or emotions that are going around inside your head, and continue to think about them for a few moments. Try not to alter your perception of these thoughts or feelings – just allow them to be as they are, without judgement;
- Notice how these may impact on your breathing. Focus only on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose slowly and steadily, and out through your mouth. If your mind wanders, acknowledge it, then gently take your mind back to focusing on your breathing;
- Gradually begin to arise from your mindful state – wiggle your toes and fingers. Smile. Take just a few moments and move on, don’t rush.
And here are some of Dr Lu’s tips around mindful walking, which can be incorporated into a busy travel schedule, as you walk through the airport, to your meeting, or around your new surroundings:
- Take a few steps and then pause. Notice how your breathing is, when you’re ready, begin walking again;
- Don’t worry about what your arms are doing, just try to walk naturally. At first, you might find you need to keep the pace quite slow. Just accept this. You can speed up – and even run mindfully – but it’s good to start at a gentle pace while you get used to the practice;
- Now, rather than instinctively moving your legs, really focus on every action in minute detail;
- Now begin to notice the sights and sounds around you. Focus on the colour of your surroundings, the movements of your body and any noises you can hear. Notice how you move into different spaces.
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