My Daily Mental and Physical Self-Care Routine & How I Manage My Mental Health When Traveling
In this week's blog and podcast, I talk about my daily routine, how I stay mentally and physically healthy while traveling and working odd hours, and how jet lag can affect mental health and tips to deal with jet lag.
Why my daily routine? So many of you have asked me how I incorporate brain building and detoxing into my busy lifestyle, and how I stay mentally and physically healthy. Here's my secret:
- I wake up and drink coffee every morning. I know there has been a lot of bad press over coffee, but more and more research is showing how coffee is actually good for us! Not only does it boost our energy levels, but it also helps boost mood, retain information, potentially protect the brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and more! But it is important to make sure that you source sustainably-grown, fair trade coffee, and brew it fresh, with little or no sugar (preferably sweetened with natural sugars if you need sweetness, such as coconut sugar or maple syrup, or low-calories sugars like monkfruit or stevia) and organic, whole creams and milks. For more information on what kind of coffees we drink, see my book Think and Eat Yourself Smart.
- I check my phone for anything from my children and other mother duties. I normally wouldn’t recommend going on your phone first thing in the morning, but as a mom with children who live far away, I always make sure I check in on them and see if they need anything.
- I check my mindset, making sure I start the day off thinking well. I focus on what I’m grateful for and what I am letting go of. I used to start each day a little negative, thinking about how stressed I am and how much I need to get done, now I make it a goal to start off the day in a healthy and constructive way. I tell myself that “no matter what happens today, it is going to be a great day and I’m going make every opportunity a learning opportunity!” For more on mindsets, see my book Think, Learn, Succeed.
- I do brain building for 1-2 hours a day (depending on my schedule). I use this time to catch up on informative podcasts and read the latest brain research. Building the brain through deep thinking and learning is so important, as it strengthens our cognitive resilience and flexibility, helping us meet the challenges at hand, just like an athlete training for a big competition. I use my 5-step learning process to do this, which I discuss in my book Think, Learn, Succeed: these steps are easy to follow, and can be applied to every area of your life, whether you are at home, in school, at university or have a job!
- I then get up and get ready, and start doing my brain detox.It is so important to detox our minds if we want to start the day off well, as cluttered and disorganized thinking habits can dramatically affect the quality of thinking throughout the day. My new app Switch is a great tool for helping you go through this process. It is based on my 5-step program, which is designed to help you identify and eliminate the root of your toxic thought patterns, and help you build a healthy new thinking habits through the mental process of reconceptualization. I use this app every day to help me organize and take back control of my thought life so I can get all I need to get done during the day.
- I have thinker moments throughout the day. A chaotic thought life will make anybody unhappy, because it throws the brain and body out of whack, affecting our mental and physical wellbeing. This is why it is so important to schedule in time throughout the day and week where you can slow down, meditate and let your mind wonder—I call these “thinker moments”. These moments give the brain a rest and allow it to reboot and heal, which can increase clarity of thought, help us deal with stress and help improve your mood. We should remember that although our minds are always active, our physical brains need a rest now and then, which is why thinker moments are so important. This is what I do: at least 7 times a day (or, ideally, every hour if possible) I schedule in a few seconds where I just let my mind wander, which really helps me focus and feel less stressed. I also take breaks throughout the day where, for several minutes, I just daydream, which activates my alpha wave, calming me down, increasing my happiness and helping me relax. This is especially effective outside in the sun, especially if I have been “locked up” all day in an office staring at a computer! For more on thinker moments, see my book Think, Learn, Succeed.
- I always fit in exercise when possible each day, even if just running up and down the stairs. Exercise is so great for our mental health, as it boosts brain health and helps keep our mind and body healthy! For more information on exercise and the brain, see my book Think and Eat Yourself Smart.
- I sauna daily. I either sauna in the morning or evening, and usually go in for an hour with water breaks (I have several preset infrared sauna programs I like to do every day). For the mental health benefits of infrared saunas, see my recent blog and podcast.
- I make self-regulation an "every moment" thing. Self-regulation is so important, and we all need to do it more often! It means using what I call our Multiple Perspective Advantage (MPA): this is the deliberate and intentional process of standing outside yourself and observing your thoughts, words and actions, and changing them. The ability to do this is unique to humans, and can help us regulate our thinking and behavior every 10 seconds, although the busier life is the harder it gets to do this! As we practice this, however, we become much more effective at what we do and how we function. How? We use our MPA by consciously observing what we say, what we are thinking, what we are choosing, our body movements, our reactions, how people react to us, and so on. You can do this right now as you are reading this blog or listening to me: become aware of what you are thinking, your body movements, your breathing, etc. As you do this, the firing in the front part of your brain increases, which gives you more control and helps your thinking function at a higher level. This stops you being reactive and acting or speaking impulsively. One of the best ways to practice self-regulation is to start a thought journal/log. Write down your thoughts, reactions, triggers—capture your thoughts and reactions, which, over time will allow you to observe patterns in your thinking. This will help you start learning to stand back and analyze how you react and work out better ways of dealing with challenging situations. This is self-regulation in action! My Switch app is also a great way to practice this kind of self-regulation.
- I have a bedtime routine. Due to my busy schedule, I don't always manage to go to bed at the same time every night, and sometimes I do suffer from insomnia. Instead of panicking, however, I have a long, hot bath, and, if I still can't sleep, I choose to get excited because I see my alertness as an opportunity to do something I didn’t get done during day. The brain and body are incredible, and I know they will make up for the occasional sleepless night, whereas panicking that I can't sleep only makes me feel more stressed out and worse-for-wear the next day. For more tips on sleeping and mental health, see my blog and podcast on the secret to better sleep, and my blog on sleep and mental self-care.
Now, what do I do when I travel?
- I always mentally prep myself before I travel, learn my schedule and plan for contingencies. Why? I mentally prepare for discomforts, such as traffic or missing luggage or even a missed flight, so that they don't put me in a state of toxic stress and helplessness. I try use every moment of free time to build my brain through research and build my relationships (such as talking to my husband or kids or an old friend)-I don't allow myself to get frustrated with delays; rather, I use the time to my advantage.
- During long flights I stretch often, walk up and down aisles, and use compression socks. My favorite brand is Comrad Socks. Comrad Socks are great for preventing swelling and making travel more comfortable, which is so important for me since I am always on the go! Wearing compression socks during any length of flight helps keep my blood circulating, combating jet-lag and fatigue, and reducing the risk for serious health issues such as blood clots. Comrad Socks are also great for helping speed up muscle recovery after workouts and so much more! You can get 20% off your Comrad Socks order at www.comradsocks.com/drleaf using the code DRLEAF at checkout.
- I usually fast on a flight since the digestive system is already compromised. Between plane rides I have healthy snacks on hand, such as kale chips, organic protein bars, and cheese crisps. You can find many of these snacks in local health food stores or on Amazon.
My favorite travel snacks are:
- Grass-fed biltong I get from my local health-food stores or Amazon
- Julian Bakery keto-friendly granola and protein bars
- Keto Krisp protein bars (to get 30% off Keto Krisp bars on Amazon or online use the code KETODRLEAF at checkout)
- Superfat Nut Butters (to get 15% off your Superfat Nut Butters order see: https://www.superfat.com and use code DRLEAF at checkout)
- Cheese crisps from Whole Foods, health food stores and Amazon
- Kale chips from Whole Foods and other health food stores
- Smart Sweets
- Quest chips
- Sprouted, organic nuts from Whole Foods and other health food stores
- I always eat slowly and take extra probiotics to help my stomach while traveling, as a compromised gut microbiome can affect sleeping patterns, weight, mood and so much more—it is almost as if your body is functioning on a broken clock, which is why it is so important to watch what we are eating and how we are feeling! For more on the importance of gut health, see my recent blog and podcast. For great quality probiotics and other supplements, see BiOptimizers. To get 20% off your order of BiOptimizers see: www.bioptimizers.com/drleaf and use the coupon code DRLEAF20 at checkout.
- When I fly I always use orange essential oil under nose to help prevent infections.
- To keep my skin hydrated I use a natural, moisturizing face spray (such as rose water), a hydration serum like hyaluronic acid, moisturizing cream, and an oil on top (like rose hip, morula or coconut oil). However, be careful of too much facial mist, as spraying it often can actually cause more dehydration!
- I travel comfortable and have special sneakers that are easy to walk around in.
- When I’m at my hotel I always take shoes off and walk on the grass. This earths me, which helps get rid of all excess electrical energy and makes me feel more grounded and at ease.
- I always try get as much fresh air as soon as possible. This helps clear my mind after long periods in a plane, and rids my brain and body of toxins and oxidative stress.
- I workout and sauna as soon as possible, even if this means just a few stretches between my speaking sessions.
- I sleep as much as need—I try listen to what my body needs.
- I eat local, organic foods for my immune system (like local, raw honey) to help me adapt to a new environment.
- I let people know up front and in advance of how I eat, when I am fasting and so on. I use this as a chance to explain how it helps my mental and brain health. And I always have healthy snacks on hand just in case!
- I scope out the closet gym (I love Orange Theory!) and local, healthy, farm-to-table restaurants.
- I drink lots of water with electrolytes. I like using LMNT or Ultima, which come in convenient travel packets and help me stay hydrated and refreshed.
- I also drink lots of tea, such as Pique Tea's black fermented puur tea, which is great for digestion and to drink on the plane! For more on Pique Tea, gut health and mental self-care see my recent blog and podcast. To get 20% off your Pique Tea order and FREE shipping see: https://piquetea.life/drleaf.
- I don’t stress about being on a strict routine. I try listen to body and make stress work for me and not against you. For more on how to do this, see my blog.
- Another one of my travel hacks to keep my body and mind healthy is bone broth. A healthy gut is key to optimal mental and physical health, and one of the best ways to boost your gut health is through bone broth. My favorite brand is Kettle and Fire because they come in a variety of delicious flavors, and are super easy to travel with in a checked suitcase. My personal favorite flavors are the ginger turmeric and the Keto spicy cauliflower soup! Kettle and Fire bone broths are certified gluten-free, Whole30 approved, keto-friendly, made with the best ingredients, and packed with collagen and so many other amazing nutrients! To get 15% off your Kettle & Fire bone broth order see: Kettleandfire.com/drleaf.
Tips if you have a fear of flying:
- Use good-quality CBD oil (for more on this listen to my recent podcast on CBD) to help calm you down. For CBD products we like, check out Feals (get 50% off your Feals CBD order at feals.com/drleaf. If you have questions about CBD, Feals has a free hotline and text message support to help guide your personal experience!) and Ned (For more on NED and to get 15% off your order + FREE SHIPPING go to: www.helloned.com/drleaf and use code DRLEAF at checkout).
- GABA and magnesium can also help you calm yourself down naturally, while melatonin can help you sleep if it's a long flight.
- Practice meditation and deep breathing, and focus the brain by doing brain building and detoxing if you find yourself becoming stressed.
For more on my schedule and travel tips, listen to this week’s podcast (episode #112).
Disclaimer: always consult with physician, do appropriate lab tests, take all advice with a grain of salt as everyone is so different and our bodies are different. Always try educate yourself and constantly learn, safely test, and find a plan that works for you.