Let’s say that you're on a business trip. As you travel, you decide you may as well get a bit of work done. You pull out your laptop and are pecking away, and that’s when you notice a growing feeling of nausea rising in your stomach. It gets so bad that you finally have to put the laptop away, having accomplished relatively little, before you are sick.
This very common sensation is motion sickness and it plagues travelers trying to maintain their productivity every single day. It really makes one wonder (usually in frustration as they experience it personally), why does this happen?
Science provides the answer to this question by telling us that it's all in our head.
This conclusion isn’t nearly as cheeky as it sounds. The fault lies in the thalamus, the part of your brain that processes sensory input and translates the signals into recognizable messages. Under normal conditions, the messages complement each other nicely; your eyes see movement, you feel yourself moving forward, etc. However, if you’re in motion but are focused on a seemingly stationary object (such as the device you are working on), these messages go awry.
The brain, appropriately enough, gets confused. While focused visually on a stationary object, and so receiving a “stationary” verdict from part of the thalamus, the brain is also contending with the messages the other senses are sending indicating movement. Unfortunately, since the human brain was not future-proofed when it initially developed eons ago, it can only come up with one rationale for this discrepancy of signals: poison.
So the nausea that is synonymous with motion sickness is simply the body’s natural, better-safe-than-sorry response to the imaginary poison your brain thinks is causing things to seem stationary and in motion at the same time. Neurological differences contribute to making the experience different between individuals, which is why some people are more sensitive than others. Here are a few things a worker-on-the-go can do to resolve these issues:
If you are one of the many sensitive folks, your time in transit may be better spent resting up for your responsibilities at your destination, or perhaps focusing on your responsibilities while there. If you’re one of those fortunate resilient people, feel free to continue pecking away at your devices while you have the opportunity. Just remember to take a break from your extra work time now and then.
How do you combat motion sickness? Let us know in the comments.