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Why We Have Jet Lag And How To Deal With It

Why We Have Jet Lag And How To Deal With It

“I think a major element of jetlag is psychological. Nobody ever tells me what time it is at home.” – David Attenborough

You fly across a few time zones, adjust your watch accordingly, and you expect your own internal body clock to do the same. A quick flick of a switch, or a magic pill, and – hey, presto! – we are ready to explore our new destination. We can eat, sleep and get up just like everybody else there. Wishful thinking!

As we all know, our body clocks are not so easily fixed, and sometimes it take days to adjust to the new light/dark rhythms. As a result, we suffer from the dreaded jet lag and feel wretched for the first few days of our holiday or business trip. For example, with a west to east flight from San Francisco to Rome it may take you up to six days to get over the jet lag.

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The reason is that there seem to be ‘molecular brakes,’ which prevent your internal clock from adjusting rapidly to the new dark/light cycle (aka your circadian rhythms). Mice can do this very quickly but humans cannot. Researchers are looking at ways that we could apply these molecular brakes to our body clocks. Once that is discovered, we should be able to face a long-haul flight with confidence and relax.

These advances in science will help treat many mental illnesses that are caused by internal clocks not working properly. Schizophrenia and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are two that spring to mind.

Fortunately for us, there are several things we can do to reduce the effects of jet lag. Here are six practical ways to deal with it.

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1. Plan ahead

When booking a long-haul flight, choose your departure time carefully if you are given a choice. Opting for an overnight flight means that you can sleep more easily and your arrival time in the afternoon or morning will make it easier for your body clock to adjust.

Another good idea is to save up your frequent flier miles and book first class. The extra comfort of fully reclining seats will help you sleep better.

2. Go to bed earlier or later before you leave

Heading east? Start going to bed just half an hour or an hour earlier for four or more nights before you leave. You are helping your body clock to get used to the new time zone before leaving. If you are heading west, try going to bed later and later.

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3. Adjust your watch when you leave

Most airlines tell you to change your watch when you arrive. A helpful suggestion is to actually do that when you leave. In this way, you are making mental adjustments and thinking about what is happening at your destination and what the routine will be when you arrive.

4. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water during the flight

Because the cabin is pressurized, the humidity levels are very low. As our bodies are mostly made of water, dehydration in this atmosphere is a risk. The solution is to drink plenty of water before, during and after the flight. Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol as they are diuretics and will only worsen dehydration, which can leave you feeling weak, nauseous, shaky and confused. Now you know why pilots have to drink so much water!

Don’t forget to get as much movement as you can during the flight. I know there is not much room, but an aisle seat can really help here as you can stretch your legs and go for a little walk without disturbing anyone.

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5. Meds may help

Consider taking a sleeping aid if you are comfortable with it and if you normally take one. Anecdotal evidence suggests that when you are eastbound, it helps you to feel more alert on the first few days, thus alleviating the effects of jet lag. Other people swear by melatonin, which is a natural hormone produced by the body to regulate your sleep-wake patterns. Try taking it for a few nights before you leave. It seems to help the body clock adjust when you get to your destination.

6. Get some sunlight if you can

On arrival, exposure to sunlight (weather and time zones permitting) will help you adjust to the new time. Getting out and doing things helps as well, so resist the urge to lock yourself up in your hotel room and fall asleep immediately, if you can. I made this mistake when I arrived in Los Angeles after a flight from Europe. It took me ages to adjust my body clock!

Try some light exercise too. A few stretching routines can really get your joints moving again. It also helps your mood. When it comes to eating, try to follow the normal mealtimes where you are, although that may mean a snack at a very strange time! Snoozing is all right too but try to avoid a long sleep until it is bedtime in your new location.

One thing to consider, if you really suffer from jet lag, is to fly north or south on the same meridian. No time zones to worry about and you only get tired from the journey. Unfortunately, there’s a more limited range of destinations, though!

Featured photo credit: Jet lag/gavdana via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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