Mar 10 2010

How to Avoid Getting Sick at SXSW

Really, this advice is good for just about any conference, but especially important at South by Southwest, because it is non-stop for several days, from 9 AM to 1 AM (or later).

Do these things and you will be in the clear.

1. Get your rest before you leave.

Oops. You’re already in trouble, aren’t you? You had to work over the weekend and some late nights this week in order to get everything done in advance of your impending departure. In that case, take some NyQuil as soon as you get on the plane, cab it to the hotel, and you’ll be fine in time for the first night band (see you at Hot Club of Cowtown).

2.  Take Airborne the morning that you’re traveling, and every morning after while you’re away.

So what that the company that makes Airborne admitted that its health-saving powers are nil by settling a huge lawsuit? Airborne works.  And not just because it was CREATED BY A SCHOOL TEACHER.  In fact, all of my medical advice comes from SCHOOL TEACHERS. But that’s just one reason it works.  The other reason it works is because your mind makes it work. Do you feel like you’re in The Matrix now?

3. Eat a balanced diet while away from home.

I know you are going to head to Franklin Barbecue at least once (and lick between your fingers when you’re done), but try to balance that out with some reasonable meals too. Especially watch your breakfast, where it’s easy to eat one muffin top that is 3 servings of bread. You don’t eat bacon for six meals in a row at home – don’t do it at SXSW. But, don’t take this too far and go for tempeh barbecue or anything gross like that when there is succulent pork available.

4. Don’t drink your calories.

Ignore the fact that Mountain Dew, Monster Energy Drink, SoBe, Pepsi, and Miller Lite are conference sponsors. Don’t drink any of their drinks (avoiding Miller Lite is not so much for health reasons, but reasons of taste which should be obvious). You don’t need the caffeine – the ideas will keep you wired enough. For calcium, drink a glass of milk at least once, or a latte with extra foam every day.

5. Get your sleep.

Yes, the bands play late. Yes, the sessions start early. Yes, you want to do it all. But, you have to synthesize sometime anyway, so you might as well sleep in order to piece together all of the stimuli that you’re being exposed to. This just has the dual benefit of keeping you healthy. Consider a siesta, or preschool-style nap time. Look for a broom closet or unused conference room (good luck!) where you can dim the lights for 30 minutes mid-day.

6. Get your exercise.

You’ll be walking back and forth through the convention center multiple times per day. Nuff said there.

7. Rally until the last day.

Let’s be honest: you can’t do 5 days, flat out, full-speed-ahead, being open to new ideas, being tired from the parties, and being away from your regular routine and *not* get sick. At least, not if you’re doing everything right. Since that is the case, use force of will to keep yourself healthy enough to get onto the plane. Then allow your immune system to crash and burn, exposing you to several hours of recirculated air on your way home.

You will get sick on your return, but you will have about 360 days to recover, so unless it’s mono, it’s worth it.

Have fun!

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