So I spent the last first two weeks of September traipsing around down under, and stopping in Manila on the way to and from. Manila is 12 hours ahead, and Sydney, 14. While I managed to spend the night in Manila, breaking the already long trip back to New York into a longer two-segment 30-something-hour sojourn, recovering from jet lag continues to be a challenge.
I have been used to the long haul flights to the other side of the world, having done approximately 10 trips home back to Manila in the 16 years I’ve been away. I’ve even managed to get the seat choice down pat, opting for the two-seater rows at the back of the airplane. Perfect for when the boy and I are traveling together, or even when it’s just me as was the case this time. I know to use one of those neck pillows which I had resisted for the longest time, to pack the right set of toiletries in what case and where, and not to fight sleep when I start getting hit by the urge to catch some shut eye.
My first night back was not a problem except that despite the lack of sleep, I didn’t go to bed until 2am. I woke up at around 6am, put my suitcases away, then slept again by 7am. I was awakened at noon when my little guy walked into my room to hug me, and that was that for sleep. I went about my day as if it was another ordinary weekend where I slept in, and plopped down to bed a few minutes after midnight. Sleep found me and I was knocked out until 6am. Perfect start of the week!
I wasn’t quite as lucky last night, waking up twice — and eventually deciding to stop fighting it by getting out of bed by 4am. Yes, I’ve been up since. And surprisingly, I’m going about my day as regularly as I do, except that I have a slight (and very slight, at that) buzz in my head.
I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore. This happens to me each time. And while I struggle with jetlag when I am at my destination, it is worse when I get back to my home turf and try to get back into the swing of things.
I have finally embraced the fact that fighting it won’t do me any good. Caffeinating goes both ways — helping to keep me up when I need to be up, but also keeping me up when I need to sleep. So I try not to overdo it. There is the temptation to go overboard with the coffee, but I have discovered that being on my feet — even just taking a short walk around the floor or the building — helps to bring my energy levels up when I sense a yawn coming.
When my brain refuses to rest and keeps me up, I now choose to take advantage of the extra energy and do something productive. This morning, I went through one headpin tray and sorted the beads out and the headpins that had wandered into other bins. (I know this is Greek to most people.. imagine sorting multi-colored and vari-sized paper clips.)
During those moments when keeping my eyes open is too much of a struggle, a short powernap can rejuvenate me, whether it’s 5 or 10 or 20 minutes. Even if I am unable to sleep, for as long as I am able to close my eyes and sit quietly in a room, my body seems to get the message that it has rested and allows me to keep going after.
We humans are creatures of habit. Breaking our usual patterns of sleep and activity wreaks havoc on our system, but we can certainly guide our bodies to settle back down to what it had been used to. It’s like a cold, you just have to ride it out and do what works best for you.