The Lounge

Anxiety IRL & In the Sky

I need to travel for my sanity, and I like to go for 2 weeks to 1 month. I am not sure if those time frames came from immersing myself in the culture or from avoiding flights…

My flight dread began after anxiety entered my life. I had a panic attack at work, and the event felt so traumatic the anxious thoughts created a new hurdle impacting my relationship with travel.

I am well aware that ‘planes are safer than cars – however, my fear does not come from the plane crashing but more an anticipation of my mental weaknesses. I can handle crazy turbulence and have had 3 emergency landings (a story for another time), but

My biggest fear is my mind wandering, panic kicking in, and spiraling about a plan B if I had an anxiety attack.

My dread of flying stems from a fear of my mind. It is emotional to admit and seems more challenging to get over than taking meds, sucking it up, or going on enough flights. I wonder what would happen if my heart rate went up, I couldn’t breathe, and I had a panic attack. Would I tell the flight attendant, and would we divert and land? Would I sit there in discomfort until I go crazy?

When I think of the toll fear of flying has on me, I feel ashamed, embarrassed, compare myself to my carefree younger self, and ask if this is an illness I will have to live with forever.

I am not cured, and everyday and trip is a journey in living with my anxiety, but below is a running list of how I try to remain calm on flights:

  • Take a screenshot of the time at takeoff and listen carefully to the pilot’s estimated flying time announcement - this makes me feel prepared and fully aware of the journey ahead.
  • Book my seat of choice ahead of the flight - (in my case) aisle seat towards the front.
  • Download my go-to Spotify tracks along with my old favorite playlists - I like having a routine and consistently listening to the same comforting songs on flights (Golden Light by STRFKR)
  • I download projects to work on offline (I find working distracts my mind best versus editing ig pictures)
  • I have a ready-to-go tote or pouch with my flight essentials.
  • 3 pairs of headphones (AirPods, the universal cord, and the cords that connect to my phone)
  • A book I have already started and am into
  • Healthy snacks and candy (it’s called balance)
  • I wear sweats, a sports bra, my favorite socks, and I have a layering scarf, or sweater
  • When I feel anxiety creeping in - I ground my feet, walk to the bathroom, look myself in the eyes, say “You’ve got this” to myself and breathe until I feel more at ease.
  • I regularly picture myself enjoying my favorite beach - in Eleuthera, Bahamas with close friends
  • This is new and not a plug, but I have found more peace in knowing I have done everything in my power to prepare
  • I check-in the day before vs day of, screenshot the code, and send the boarding pass pdf to loved ones
  • I layer but avoid wearing boots, belts, or hard to remove in security wear
  • I use my Cobalt blue Rydir band 
  • I hydrate and always buy a water bottle once I’ve found my gate
  • I travel with my AMEX Platinum card for lounge life, free TSA precheck, and Clear
  • I take care of myself before the day of: I keep up with weekly therapy, regular yoga, walks, and remind myself to breathe (I like to do 4 seconds in, hold 2 seconds, 6 seconds out, repeated 4 times)
  • I try to travel with friends, loved ones, and let them know of my anxiety beforehand.
  • I like to have a homeopathic plan B as a backup plan which is medicine in itself (i.e., Destress/ relaxation capsules or essential oils)

I asked my therapist for advice on flights, and she left me with trust yourself. I still remember that and remind myself of it.

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