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Jetlag and emotions

Traveling somewhere (new or old) will always have both a practical and an emotional side. Not to mention the physical effects of jetlag. 

As you might know, I live in Australia but have my entire family and many of my friends back in Sweden and scattered across Europe. Given that I was the one who decided to move super far away, I’m also often the one who travels back for holidays to see everyone. 

After many years as an avid traveller and expat, I’m pretty used to traveling and have an amazing ability to curl up in random, yet comfortable sleeping positions on planes and buses. Because I often travel on my own and don’t have kids, it also means that I don’t have to worry too much about the people around me (good earplugs and a sleep mask are my best friends at times).

Sounds straight forward, right? Now; the one thing I’ve always found hard to deal with is the jetlag. I’ve got quite a few friends in the airline industry and other jobs that travel for work all the time, so over the years I’ve kept asking people how they do it and kept tweaking how I travel to help deal with it in the best way.

In theory it’s pretty easy – you step on the plane and adjust as quickly as possible to the time zone you’re going to. Even though I can’t quite sleep on cue, I’m getting gradually better at this one.

I don’t like to waste precious time that could have been spent with loved ones, so I rather spend that quality time with family up until the last day of holiday. This also means that coming back from a long trip I’ll usually go straight back to work the next day, which is the prime time for jetlag to mess with the brain and body clock!

One thing I noticed this last time is how jetlag really can stir up emotions as well. Because when we’re outbound we have the holiday and all the experiences to look forward to and our goal is to shake the outbound jetlag off quickly to head out and experience. But when we’re coming back it’s a bit different (even if it’s often good to come back home again). Because it means we have to deal with the job, relationship, messy house and other things we might have left behind when we flew off.

So a few weeks ago, as I laid there awake in bed after landing back in Australia and counted the minutes until I had to get up for work, I felt quite emotionally overwhelmed. Not to mention the loneliness that hit me after spending a few amazing weeks with some of the people I love the most. The emotional weight hit me like a tonne of bricks and it did not exactly help me calm my mind and get some more sleep.

Needless to say I looked like a zombie the next day and work certainly was not super productive. But I realised that next time, I can probably anticipate that these strong feelings might rock up.

And like anything else when it comes to feelings, especially the ones that are hard to label and/or sit with – I always ask myself, “what feeling comes after this?” Not to rush the first feeling (of loneliness, sadness or whatever else) to leave, but simply to give myself another focus and allow a new thought to come in. 

What’s been your experience with jetlag and emotions? And what are your best tips to deal with it?