By Catherine Darroue
Catherine Darroue, senior director of customer proposition, EMEA, at Aetna International, outlines a selection of simple steps to stay happy and healthy on your holiday
With the Eid al Adha holiday coming up many are looking forward to enjoying a short break. You’ve researched it, booked it and you’re excitedly looking forward to your well-deserved holiday - just what the doctor ordered to recharge your batteries and refresh your creativity and motivation.
But before you get in your car, or board a plane, I’ve got a few tips that will go a long way in ensuring that you stay fit and well, while on vacation, and come back refreshed and reinvigorated.
Having a break from work gives us time to re-establish healthy habits, such as a good night’s sleep. It’s a great way to get your immune system back on track, improve your concentration levels and your mood.
If you’re crossing time zones, try to adapt your sleep pattern to your destination a few days before you leave, to reduce the impact of the time difference - especially if you’re going east. Some easy ways to do this include avoiding caffeine or getting into the sunlight as soon as possible (once you reach your destination) to help you feel awake.
Activity is important for fitness as well as supporting your health. Use your holiday to set up healthy habits or continue your virtuous regimen. Walking, yoga and swimming are three easy (and cost-effective) ways, to keep up your energy levels, and ensure mental well-being.
If you are really looking to get the juices flowing, you may even decide to do some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - as running on the spot doesn’t demand much space.
And if you are getting on a plane, there are a number of exercises and stretches you can (and should) do while flying that help keep your blood pumping and your body supple - for example quad stretches, squats and neck rolls.
Whether it is a trip back to your home country, or some exotic destination, let’s face it, enjoying some great food is high on the priority list. But like they say, “everything in moderation!”
No matter where you are in the world, there will be healthy food and snack options available. Find out what these are and opt to eat these when hunger strikes.
You can take steps to mitigate illness and discomfort due to strange or tainted foods and even the bacteria in water, by taking a daily probiotic for a couple of weeks before you go and continue while away to help stabilise your digestive system.
Many of us feel more stressed when we’re on holiday as we agonise over what might be happening back in the office. Try a ‘digital detox’. Don’t check social media or emails - or only do it once a day.
Practising some basic mindfulness techniques is another great way to help reduce and tackle stress and anxiety. One of the techniques that is easy to do on vacation is ‘tuning in’. Checking in with your body helps you take better care of yourself - and it doesn’t take long at all. Start with your feet. Notice how your toes feel in your shoes. Slowly move your awareness up through your body, checking in with each part. Your legs. Your arms. Your torso. Contract and relax your muscles along the way. Become aware of your posture. Gently roll your neck to all sides, and lift your head up high.
Doing some research about your destination is all part of the fun of planning a holiday and can reduce the stress of getting used to a new country. And awareness of culture - from language to gender etiquette - can make a holiday run more smoothly.
Staying safe while in an unfamiliar country and getting to know a new culture are important considerations for individuals holidaying overseas.
Your international private medical insurance (iPMI) provider should be able to provide you with guidance on the culture and customs in your destination. And if you’re sight-seeing and you lose your passport or a natural disaster strikes, find out if you have access to expert safety advice and support through your iPMI provider - so you can travel with confidence.
You might have a condition that requires regular tablets or injections or need medication on your person, in case of an allergic reaction.
Making sure you have an adequate supply before you head off on your holidays will give you peace of mind on your trip.
Many countries have lists of medications that aren’t allowed and it’s important to check that anything you want to take with you is legal. Not only do you want to avoid arrest, but you do not want to have medication you need for disease or condition management taken from you.
Depending on the destination you are travelling to, you might need to get vaccinated prior to travel. Speak with a travel medicine specialist for definitive and personalised advice at least a month before you’re planning to go.
You can check which, if any, vaccinations are required before you go by using the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers’ website. By inputting your holiday destination, the site will tell you exactly what you need from routine vaccinations to specific jabs such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
Health insurance is another major consideration when travelling, something many of us take for granted.
Many expats in the UAE and even frequent fliers have iPMI to ensure they have access to quality care while living abroad. If you have iPMI, you may well be covered for illness in your holiday destination - check your certificate of insurance or ask your benefits or account manager.
However, also having travel insurance can be worthwhile investment as it covers you against any costs or losses incurred on holiday.
While individual policies vary, this can include flight cancellation, loss/damage of luggage and medical emergencies. This is particularly relevant for those travelling to places where access to quality care and treatment is limited.
While travel insurance covers you for the basics of holiday travel and emergencies, iPMI gives a more comprehensive level of cover for health care of all types, including in some cases emergency evacuation and mental health.
Following these few basic healthy holiday tips, will help you focus on immersing yourself in the experience and then getting home healthy, fit and happy. Your body - and your mind - will thank you for it!For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.