Stay hydrated. When you’re in a rush to get to your vacation spot and don’t want to stop for many breaks, it’s tempting to avoid liquids. Unfortunately, dehydration can cause back pain, especially when combined with lots of sitting in the car. It can also cause fatigue and irritability. Avoid nodding off at the wheel and making enemies of your travel companions, by drinking plenty of (preferably uncaffeinated and unsweetened) liquids. Water is, of course, always a great choice.
Stretch. You know the feeling of getting out of the car after driving for a long time, when your legs and back are so tight that you walk like R2-D2? You can prevent that by taking regular breaks to get out of the car and stretch your legs. If you can’t make frequent stops during your trip, get some movement in once you reach your destination, whether it’s a walk followed by stretching on the beach, or a brief yoga practice to stretch your hips. You’ll be walking like a human again in no time!
Practice mindful driving. Notice your thoughts and body when you’re behind the wheel. Do you tense your stomach muscles and get road rage when you’re stuck in traffic? Do you wave and thank drivers who let you merge onto the highway? Do your eyebrows squeeze together when you’re trying to drive through rain? There’s no need to judge your responses while driving; just notice that they’re happening.
If you observe reactions (like tension and frustration) that aren’t serving you, you might try to loosen your grip on them a little bit, even if only briefly. Mindfulness takes careful practice, and even just a couple of minutes a day can make a difference.
Stay focused on the present moment by turning off your cell phone or putting it on silent and out of reach. That simple act not only helps you keep your mindful awareness on your driving, it also helps prevent accidents.
Find some time for quiet. Carve out time each day to be still. Even if it’s only for a few minutes at a picnic bench at a rest stop, give yourself a chance to slow down and savor the feeling of being alive and present. If your mind needs something to do, focus on the movement of your breath, or the sound of the birds. Notice how slowing down affects your mood and your body language.
Wherever you’re headed, have a great, replenishing trip!
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