It’s been almost exactly 3 years since I’ve been on an airplane. I’m sure this is not a big shock to anyone; many people don’t fly frequently, but these 3 years obviously were very different, and a lot has changed since then.
Before COVID, I had what I called “plane anxiety”; I would get nervous and sweat or have trouble breathing and would take a lot of Gravol to help me sleep through it. Now after all the learning and self reflection that came with the pandemic and me working as a full time Occupational therapist, I’ve come to realize that it’s not plane anxiety I have. I’m anxious, I have general anxiety, and I’m very confident that I’m also neurodivergent in some way (undiagnosed autism perhaps?), and my anxiety is just more intensified on an airplane.
So this weekend I flew to the United States by myself on an airplane. And I thought it would be an interesting post just to share how I prepared to work through my anxiety alone up In the air in case it’s beneficial to anyone who reads this.
**please note: I’m sharing this as an Occupational therapist to share MY experiences so you can get some ideas where to start or feel normalized in your anxiety or airplane prep… this is NOT an official recommendation of what you should do to help with your anxiety. You’re welcome to try anything that I’ve mentioned but if you’re looking for personalized help please connect with an occupational therapist or another medical professional that specializes in anxiety.**
Before my flight, I made sure to take my time making a packing list to ensure my anxiety could be soothed about missing something. I made an itinerary of outfits to make sure I considered weather conditions (for a nature OT retreat) and activities we were doing.
Recognizing my anxiety for a 2 hour flight, I packed my non drowsy gravol for the nervous belly and mints for the ear popping. I brought my pop it and fidget ring for the distraction piece for anxiety when headphones aren’t allowed during take off and landing, and my noise cancelling headphones for the in between time (with a playlist of soft nature and piano music). And even though I’m a 30 year old woman, I packed a comfort stuffed animal to double as a pillow! I think the biggest piece for me this flight was having my fiancé help convince me that taking all of these things wasn’t silly and was so important.
As an adult I think sometimes it can feel overwhelming to realize you need some extra tools to do things that adults are supposed to be able to do easily, and sometimes society can label it as childish or silly. But at the end of the day, I realized that it is ok and so amazing to be able to identify your needs and utilize your strategies ! Of course I knew this as an OT for my clients, but being able to accept it as a strategy for myself took a long time. But I’m so thankful I’m here now!
In the end my flight went so well and I am so happy that I allowed myself to use my strategies so publicly because it was the smoothest it could have gone! And now I’m enjoying a magical weekend with a bunch of likeminded women who just want to bring our OT clients out into nature to thrive, and it’s amazing !
What are your plane strategies that help you through plane anxieties? I’m always looking for more suggestions, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, so please share in the comments!