We’ll keep this quick, because you have things to do. As a physician of high performers, sleep is a common discussion topic. Due to travel across time zones, irregular schedules, long days, responsibilities and/or having lots on the mind, there are times when sleep is limited and yet we need to be able to perform. Here’s a common formula: [Feeling Sleep Deprived & Tired] + [No Time for Full Night’s Sleep] + [Need to Perform at Peak Capacity] = [Unnecessary Unhealthy Stress.] This can be treated or prevented.
Here’s one tool (of many) that you may find helpful for those times: The Caffeine Nap*. (*If you have a caffeine sensitivity, are responsible for operating heavy machinery or are driving or flying, this is NOT recommended.)
1. Set alarm for 30 minutes.
2. Drink an unsweetened coffee or espresso.
3. Nap. (We will review HOW to fall asleep quickly in a future post)
4. Wake up to the alarm as your caffeine kicks in and your mind is in “Game On!” Mode.
5. Know that you’ve got this.
Let me know how you’re doing. Drop me a line.
Do you have to travel across multiple time zones for work? If so, you have multiple factors to consider. We will start with food and drink tips.
On your travel day and/or on the day you have to “perform,” maintain steady energy and power up your mind:
- Hold the sugar, wheat and alcohol. In addition to increasing your waistline, this causes your energy levels to fluctuate and also messes with your circadian rhythm.
- Stay hydrated. A water bottle can be refilled at many airports and at your destination. Drink lots of clear liquids, especially water or other unsweetened beverages like unsweetened tea, coffee (cream ok) or flavored sparkling water. Make sure you are drinking extra fluids when you are very physically active, in hot weather, or if you are high altitude, such as on a plane. You are mostly water, so keep the fluids flowing.
- It’s better NOT to eat if you are not hungry. If you skip a meal because there aren’t good food options for you, that’s ok- we call that “Intermittent Fasting”. *Note: If you take medications for blood sugars or diabetes, talk to your doctor about timing your medications and foods as you travel across time zone.
- The other option would be to pack travel friendly high performance fuels for those times when choices are limited. Have options that will satisfy your needs: salty, crunchy, creamy, etc.
- As a last resort, consider meal replacements with monk fruit or stevia (ie. Vega Essentials) as a sweetener or NO sweetener (ie. Bob’s Red Mill Protein & Fiber Nutritional Booster). Stay away from sucralose or fruit juice if possible as they will cause you to be more hungry very soon after. Look at the nutrition label and confirm NET carbs 5 grams or less. (Total carbohydrates in grams – Dietary Fiber in grams = NET carbs)
Have any other tips for eating or drinking while traveling, AND maintaining your steady energy and powering your mind?
If you are traveling for work and you need to eat to fuel your body and mind, but won’t have always have time or access for healthy whole food choices and fresh vegetables, here are some options to consider packing for your travels.
***Remember that your essential fuels include water, proteins (amino acids) and fats. “Essential” means you have to eat or drink it because your body cannot make it. ***
This list was originally created for flight attendants who travel frequently, may not have access to many healthy food options and who need to be able to perform at their peak for long periods of time. Since this was originally created, there have been some modifications and many requests for copies of this list from business travelers, college students and medical professionals.
- Deli roll ups – freeze (thaw for first half or shorter trips)
- Deli roll ups or cheese quesadillas made w/ Mission Carb Balance or FlatOut tortillas
- Hard boiled eggs (invest <$20 in an egg steamer that will make easy peel hard boiled eggs) (requires refrigeration)
- Deviled eggs (requires refrigeration)
- Cottage cheese (on way to airport) (requires refrigeration)
- Oikos triple zero yogurt
- Two Good yogurt
- Chobani or Fage full fat Plain Greek Yogurt (optional add any: nuts, nut butter, cocoa nibs, hemp seeds, chias seeds, ¼ berries)
- Shelf-stable cheese sticks
- Babybel cheese, (requires refrigeration)
- Cheese crisps
- Moon Cheese (Starbucks)
- Make your own: microwave small amounts of cheese on parchment paper. Or place the cheese mounds on parchment paper into the oven at 320F (160c) and bake for 5 minutes.
- Starkist tuna & salmon packets
- Bumble Bee Seasoned Tuna (with spoon)
- Canned sardines
- Quest bars (Avoid the ones with sucralose listed as an ingredient)
- Epic meat bars
- Just the Cheese bars (crunchy)
- Vega One or Orgain protein powder (make or buy individual packets), add to bottled water
- Trader Joe’s beef, turkey, or salmon jerky
- Sabra Hummus packs
- Dang or Bare toasted coconut flakes
- Wholly Guacamole mini’s
- Adapt bars (small & filling, various flavors, keto friendly)
- Macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts
- Blue Diamond flavored almonds
- Nut and seed butters (almond, peanut butter)
- Jif To Go Natural peanut butter
- Rx nut butter (honey cinnamon PB, vanilla almond butter, plain PB-5 or 6 net carbs so limit to 1)
- Justin’s almond or peanut butter (classic)
- Yumbutter squeeze packs (sunflower, almond, peanut)
- Soom tahini squeeze packs
- Nut packs
- Sahale snacks all natural nut blends
- Imperial nuts energy blend
- Patagonia Provisions savory seeds
- Nut Harvest nut & fruit mix
- Emerald salt & pepper cashew 100 calorie packs
- Homemade trail mix
- Combine your favorite: peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Pearls Olives To Go!
- Oloves (olives)
- Mario Camacho brineless Snack olives
- Trader Joe’s Handful of Olives packets
- Olive Pickle Pak
- Veg with salad dressing or dips that are NOT sweet.
- Dill pickles
- Trail mix extras:
- Montmorency dried tart cherries, dark chocolate chips, or unsweetened coconut flakes
- Chips and crackers and crunchy
- Pork rinds
- Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks (plain or wasabi)
- Rhythm superfoods kale chips
- Splitz original crunchy split pea crisp snacks
- Seapoint farms dry roasted edamame
- Biena roasted chick pea snacks
- Saffron Road crunchy chickpeas
- Smoked salmon wrap– put smoked salmon in iceberg lettuce, add avocado, a few capers and cream cheese
- Lark Ellen Farm Grain Free Granola Bites – Vanilla Cinnamon
- Norwegian Baked Knekkebrod crisp bread
- Qi’a Superfood Organic Hot Oatmeal in creamy coconut
- Crepes: Crepini Egg White Thins
- Emmy’s 2 oz. lemon ginger macaroons – spicy and sweet
- Lindt 70% dark chocolate
- Unreal dark chocolate PB cups
- GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals
- Cocoa Nibs
- Instant chocolate mousse– blend 1 avocado + 1 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened) + sweetener to taste
- Trader Joe’s Organic coconut sesame clusters snack
- Whole Foods 365 Candied Walnuts
- Hu Get back to Human Chocolate covered hunks (chocolate covered cashews)
- Teas such as Tazo, Yogi, etc.
- Instant Green Tea Powder (mix with water)
- La Croix (Flavored sparkling water)
- Bubly (Flavored sparkling water)
- Starbucks VIA instant coffee
- Half and half pods
- Fruit in water bottle to infuse water
- SeedLip (non alcoholic, “liquor”)
- Salt and pepper packets
- Hot sauce packets
- Mayonnaise packets
- Mustard packets
- Everything bagel seasoning
Water is fine. But when you want a little something else, here’s a starting list of drinks that are weight neutral and will work well on the road.
First: Find an easy travel (water) bottle: collapsible vs. roll up vs. solid stainless steel for hot or cold drinks. Then, have a few options to change up your drink options.
Airplane Photo by Eva Darron on Unsplash
After residency, I decided I wanted to live within 10 minutes from my practice so I would not have to spend my precious time commuting to and from work. I moved within a 7 minute drive from my work, no traffic. I loved the extra time I had on either end of my work day. First, I was exercising more, cooking more dinners, and having time for grocery shopping. It was great! As time went on, I was able to fit other activities into that extra time and I could spend more time doing work-related activities. I could run a few more errands each day and I began taking on more work duties that could be accomplished in the extra time I now had.
As a result of my increased number of activities, the exercise routine became more sporadic. Instead of working out before work, I could “get more stuff done” and then plan to workout in the evenings. Of course, EVEN IF my clinic didn’t run late with last minute add-on patients and phone calls or EVEN IF I wasn’t too fatigued or hungry after a full clinic day missing lunch, my family members needed my focused attention and my workouts would be further “postponed.” I now didn’t have time to workout. Basically, the “saved” time started out as more time for self-care, but ultimately was squeezed out with with more time spent on activities and obligations that I didn’t need to do BEFORE I eliminated my commute and less self-care. Poor planning…Lots of reflection and learning…
Fast forward to my current job that I love but that is far from home. (We can discuss in the future about how to grow into the job you love.) When considering this job, I had to accept that I would have a total daily commute of potentially up to 2.5-3 hours with the common severe traffic. I considered taking the train in. The hospital even offers a free shuttle to drive people to and from the train station. However, I do not live close to the train station, so it would still take me about 2-2.5 hours door to door to take the train, and without the flexibility of coming and going as I wanted. It was clear. With this new job, I would have a long commute to and from work, 5 days a week.
I began investigating how to optimize my commute time. After trial and error and rapid “quality improvement,” my commute is part of my self-care time. If you have a long commute, here are my 7 steps to achieving a Self Care Commute:
- Figure out when you HAVE to be in your office.
- Can you work from home on some days?
- Does it matter the exact time you get to work or leave work?
- Can you adjust your work day start and end times? If no, move to #4.
- Figure out your transportation options that agree with your work hours.
- Do you need personal space and time without other people during your commute? Do you have a car? If yes, move to #3.
- Are there ride share or public transportation options for you to get to and from your work that you would consider? For example: Uber, Lyft, Train, Subway, Bus, Carpool with neighbor. List them.
- How long does it take to get from your front door, to your office door for each of those options? Add to your list next to each option.
- Is your schedule predictable enough that your schedule can match a ride share, bus or train schedule? If no, move to #3.
- Will you need to travel from one site to another during the day? If so, will it be easier if you have your own car? If yes, move to #3. If no, list your options for travel during your workday. Include the door-to-door travel times and costs associated with each option.
- If commuting by car or truck, review the various driving routes to work and traffic patterns.
- Waze, ETA and other apps offer anticipated travel times to destinations at various hours of the day. Make a list.
- Can you find the range of travel times for the times you could drive to and from work for the hours you need to be there. Circle those travel times.
- Make a list of the categories of activities you can do during your various commuting options that you would like more time for. For example, Train: knitting, reading, listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts, writing, closing eyes and visualizing. Car: listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts, sitting in silence, connecting and talking to family/friends hands-free, driving through scenic route.
- Figure out the options for your activities on the way TO work which may be different than the way FROM work to home. For example, I am focused and my brain is eager to learn early in the morning, so I listen to non-fiction educational audiobooks on the way TO work. At the end of my day, my brain needs to relax. I may process my day by listening to music or thinking in silence or I may connect with others by calling my family or friends or I may want to be entertained and eagerly listen to the next chapter in the current detective series.
- Organize your commute times to optimize your commute and productivity. For example, my commute is cut in half if I drive in extra early before my scheduled meetings or clinic. This works great for me since that is when my brain is most productive so I can use that early quiet time in the office to achieve more. On my ride home, my commute is not optimized and is longer (by choice). I love that the longer drive home allows me more protected time to “squeeze” in a chapter or two of a fiction audiobook (which I wouldn’t read otherwise), process my day and connect with family and friends.
- Try it out and adjust your daily routines to optimize your commute times. After adapting my schedule and travel times, my commute time is not as long as I anticipated. I am more productive, my time is spent more efficiently and I have protected self care time daily. Despite the long commute, I have better integration of my work life and personal life.
- Maybe you will have more time to connect with more of your family and friends with hands free phone calls.
- Maybe you will find a new podcast or book series that make that unexpected traffic delay enjoyable.
- Maybe you will learn new skills with personal development audiobooks or a recorded lecture series.
- Maybe you will use the time to process your day, think about your family, consider your future.
- Maybe you will learn a new language and take that trip abroad or meet new people.
- Maybe you will work out at the gym near work in the evening before you drive home so that your commute time will be shorter and you will achieve your daily workout goals.
Once you recognize your commute time can be protected time to fit in the enjoyable activities you currently don’t make time for, you will find it is a luxurious time. While sitting in traffic on my ride home, I am forced to slow down. There is no checking emails or texts or getting online. I am in control of and I choose which activity I engage in. I appreciate the extra time I have for those fun activities that I otherwise would not make time for. The traffic ensures that I dedicate more time to self-care. It’s now my Self-Care Commute.
Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash