Stress from Business Travel: How to Avoid it

If your job has you on the road, you have to be on the ball about taking care of yourself, otherwise a few months into a heavy business travel circuit will leave you baggy eyed, flabby, and exhausted, with a messy apartment on top of it. You can beat the stress and maintain optimum health and sanity by recognizing the common business travel pitfalls, and then learning how to avoid them.

Though a big part of successful living is coping with life’s stress as it comes, universal wisdom suggests that planning ahead, whenever you can, helps you get ahead. Business travel is no different. As the spring and summer travel cycles are getting underway, read on to keep from becoming a casualty of too much time on the road.

Avoid Too Much Wining and Dining

Actually, too much bad food isn’t always the problem; sometimes it’s too much good food. The eating experience of the business traveler can vary from ultra-rich and ritzy gourmet wine-and-dine dinner marathons, to the fast-food burger and fries as you’re rushing to meet your next client. Either way, you’re consuming far more calories and fat than you should.

If a client is wining and dining you, certainly you want to be gracious when they offer another martini and a second helping of foie gras, but try to balance it. Here’s a few tips:

  • Order a low-fat entrée so that if your coworkers insist on splitting the cheesecake for dessert, you can snag a bite or two without feeling guilty.
  • Your best menu options when dining in finer restaurants are usually fish—ask for it grilled or broiled with a little lemon, instead of fried.
  • Skip the rich, buttery sauces and creamy dressings
  • Take a side of steamed vegetables instead of potato or pasta.
  • Skip dessert and cap your meal with a decaf espresso
  • Enjoy a glass of that special reserve vintage, but keep alcohol consumption to a minimum

If you have to grab lunch on the run, go for your lower -fat options. You may even opt to swing through a grocery store where you are likely to find a salad bar or precut items that you can snack on while driving.

Make Some “Me-time” and Beat Stress

Business travel is a whirlwind operation because you usually have a million people to meet with in the limited amount of time you’ll be in a particular city. Early morning meetings, late night dinners, delayed flights, change of time zone, and very little down-time can throw your body’s rhythms for a loop. Stress and exhaustion mount.

Remember that, paradoxically, jam-packing your schedule isn’t necessarily the key to productivity. We all need chill-time, even on the road. Look at your schedule for your out-of-town business appointments and see where you can carve out some  “me-time”. It may be as simple as taking a solitary lunch break to collect your thoughts. Are there any scheduled events where your absence wouldn’t be noticed? Take advantage.

Pay Attention to Your Sleep

Between your late nights preparing to meet with clients, keeping up with business back at the office, unfamiliar and uncomfortable hotel beds, and caffeine overdose, business travelers often get caught in a long string of sleepless nights. The inevitable result is the domino effect of no sleep, more caffeine, stress, exhaustion, crash and burn.

Though you’ll be tempted to try to keep up the momentum with coffee or try to play super-employee by managing work in two places, travel time is not the time to scrimp on sleep.

  • Discipline yourself to try to keep to a regular sleep schedule—you’ll be fresher, sharper and more productive if you do.
  • Make sure your sleeping environment is the best it can be. Call the front desk for another pillow and pack earplugs if you’re a light sleeper.
  • Keep alcohol and caffeine consumption to a minimum. An excess of either will throw off your body’s rhythms.

Don’t Neglect Your Body

When you’re out of town it’s easy to let your workout regimen go right out the window. By the time you return home, you’ve lost the momentum and the downward spiral is set in motion. The key to keeping up good health when traveling is planning ahead.

If your company gives you options for where you will lodge, find a hotel that has an exercise facility. Ask your health club if they have a partner facility in the city you will be visiting and see if you need a special guest-pass. Or, go the old-fashioned route and get out for a brisk walk or run before the morning meetings get underway. Exercise bands are cheap and easy to fit into your luggage.

In addition to keeping you on track with your exercise routine, regular physical activity helps relax and rejuvenate you from all that taxing travel and reduce stress.

Stay Organized on the Home Front

Long cycles of work travel can throw the rest of your life into a tailspin—the mail stacks up, no one picks up the dry-cleaning, and the floor of your apartment doesn’t vacuum itself. The sense of overwhelm sets in immediately as you drop your suitcase full of dirty clothes among all the little messes you left as you were rushing to get to the airport.

Avoid this recipe for stress and meltdown by planning ahead. The more organized and picked up you are in your home life before you go out of town, the quicker you’ll bounce back into gear upon return. Here are a few simple ideas to promote a smoother transition upon return and kill stress:

  • Clean up your mailbox: Go through the junk mail and catalogs you receive and find the phone number to unsubscribe. This cuts down on the mail you have to go through when you return. Set up online banking and credit card statements and bill pay so you can manage your finances on the road.
  • Call a cleaning service: It may seem like an indulgence, but for the busy traveler, this is money well spent, and if you live in a small space, it will be a quick job. You’ll love coming home to a tidy, lemon-fresh living space.
  • Stock your freezer: When you arrive home tired and hungry, opening up the refrigerator to a diet soda and a can of pickles is going to be a big disappointment, and the last thing you want is more take-out. Pick up a few healthy, frozen options like a low-fat stir-fry or black bean soup before you go out of town so you can get some real food as soon as you get home.
  • Unpack your suitcase: Discipline yourself to just get it over with. Otherwise you’re living out of a suitcase in your own home and the days turn into weeks. Make a game with yourself to see how fast you can get everything put away upon return.

How are you keeping yourself from becoming a business travel casualty? Got tips to beat work travel stress?


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Jacki Christopher is a writer, translator and language instructor. When she's not working on an article, she's studying and writing about Mexican culture and current affairs, training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or baking. She travels as much as her budget allows, but Philadelphia is home.


  1. Rochelle on the 22nd July

    Some very good pointers above. I found a brand new website that’s all about travel, lists comments from all over , posts are from fellow travellers and it’s

  2. Crystal on the 23rd July

    Good reminders here, especially on the meals and sleep time front. I’m on the road 3 out of 4 weeks a month, and the practice that has kept me sane (along with the ones you have listed) is having a separate road wardrobe and toiletries. Knowing exactly how little you have to pack and having your favourite products in travel sizes makes a hotel-away-from-home bathroom feel more comfy while seeking out specific road clothes and shoes makes wearing them a treat!

    I also stock my suitcase with my favourite herbal teas to help de-stress back at the hotel at night, with granola bars for mornings when breakfast isn’t an option, and with other healthy snacks.

  3. Rochelle del Callar on the 23rd July

    it’s important to me to get a good sleep to avoid stress.

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