“When thinking about life, remember this: No amount of guilt can solve the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future.” ~Unknown
When I saw that the wheel of the small airplane was wobbling, I realized I had been strapped in.
I summoned my courage to unbuckle my seatbelt and approach the flight attendant who instructed me to relax.
“I think there’s something wrong with the wheel,” I said.
He looked out the window and said, “It’s fine.” But then he radioed the pilot, who turned the plane around.
It was checked out and found to be in good condition.
In retrospect, I recognize I wasn’t responsible for the pilot turning the plane around. That was his decision, based on the information I’d provided. But the wheel wasn’t, in fact, wobbling. My anxious mind was only playing tricks on my brain.
It was a shame that one of my passengers, a surgeon had to cancel his planned surgery, and others were late. The irony was, that I was actually on the plane to participate in the somatic therapy program. This was where I learnt how to lower my anxiety levels and to help others.
It was a great experience that I have learned so much and want to share my techniques for calming anxiety.
Anxiety is part the fight-or flight response that is meant to protect your body. Although the trigger of anxiety can be external, you need to complete the stress cycle at the nerve system level.
Dr. Emily Nagoski, who is a New York Times bestseller and author of Burnout, shares the idea that there are three parts to the stress cycle. To get rid of stress, your body must be able to complete its cycle.
In the past, you would be chased by a lion, and then hopefully a neighbor would open the door and you’d run in, slamming the door behind you.
It may seem like you’d feel better because the lion was gone, but on a scientific level, we now know you’d feel better because you ran and the endorphins helped you complete the stress cycle.
If you’re feeling anxious, go for a walk around the block or put on your favorite song and dance. Even on the plane I could have pushed my feet into the floor and squeezed the arm rests to process some of my anxiety physically, but I didn’t.
2. Be aware of your anxiety
Detach yourself from your thoughts as much as possible and allow the anxiety to manifest in the body. Observe where anxiety feels most intense in your body. Describe it: “I feel a buzzing in my chest.” “I feel a tightness in my throat.” And as best you can, welcome this vibration into your body. You can manage anxiety like all humans.
When you believe that anxiety shouldn’t be happening, you actually create more anxiety about your anxiety. Accepting it helps to reduce anxiety.
On the plane, I wasn’t at all aware of what was happening in my body. My mind was occupied with deciding whether to speak up or not. And thinking that I’d really regret if I didn’t say something and the plane crashed. It was a panic attack that left me completely disengaged from myself and overwhelmed my feelings of panic.
If I’d noticed where the anxiety was in my body, perhaps I’d have made a different decision. Or maybe I wouldn’t have; it’s hard to know…
What I do know is that I experience a greater sense of well-being when I allow the physical sensations to come in. Try it.
3. Let your worries be known
Simply saying “I’m feeling anxious” can help you feel calmer. According to a recent study, expressing emotions in words can reduce activity in the amygdala which is the brain part responsible for regulating stress and emotions.
One of my classmates was sitting behind me, but she moved to have her own row. She wondered if she could have heard me tell her I felt anxious about the wheel, and if that would have helped my nervous system to control itself. Again, we can’t know for sure, but according to the research, that’s probably true.
So if you’re feeling anxious, say out loud to yourself or someone else, “I’m feeling anxious.” This will help you observe and detach from the emotion just a little bit so it’ll feel less overwhelming.
4. Establish physical contact.
If a child was scared or anxious, you’d instinctively hold their hand or pick them up to soothe the fear. And there’s research that hugging and self-soothing touch, like putting a hand on your heart, can lead to lower cortisol levels after a stressful situation.
If I’d had a loved one to hold my hand or give me a hug, this would have soothed my anxiety to a degree.
You can hug your dog or friend. And if you’re alone, put a hand on your heart to assure your nervous system that you’re safe.
Following this experience, I needed to deal with the shame of making that mistake. I was initially horrified. It felt like I had lost control and that my life was a complete disaster.
It is now a different view. As someone who suffered trauma as a child, I view myself as one who is still healing from that experience and who is trying her best. I’m proud that I stood up and used my voice and did what I thought was right in the moment.
Also, I am sorry for the adverse effects it had on crew and passengers. Understandably, the surgeon was upset. And others were probably too, even though they didn’t say anything.
Super friendly pilot. After checking out my wheel, he spoke with me to reassure that all was well. At the end of my flight, a passenger approached me and thanked me for staying alert and brave even though it was all fine. His stance was that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The complexity of human life is amazing. This is something I can now forgive, even though it was an error. I know I was doing my best at the time and I’ve learned from it.
I still get anxious sometimes, but it’s reduced significantly. As I become more aware of my body and learn the various techniques to help with stress, my anxiety lessens.
I’m happy to report I haven’t turned around any airplanes or cruise ships since applying these techniques, so I wholeheartedly recommend you use them to reduce your anxiety too!!
Bryn spent years living as an anxious perfectionist who was sensitive and anxious. She discovered Core Energetics, which helped to dramatically reduce her anxiety. Through her podcast, she helps healers, artists and entrepreneurs achieve sacred goals by helping them to overcome trauma, childhood patterns, and other issues. Grab the Free Anxiety Training today! You can also connect via Instagram, Facebook or TikTok!
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Tiny Buddha’s post, 4 Anxiety-Calming Strategies I Wish I Use When I Worried Out On a Plane, appeared first on Tiny Buddha.