Seeing the world is a beautiful experience and I vowed to myself, even when I suddenly became afraid of flying from my first panic attack years ago, that the fear and anxiety would never stop me from exploring this beautiful, blue planet of ours. With some self-work and self-education, I was able to overcome my fear of flying and started with small 2-hour flights and grew to our most recent (total) 24-hour flight to New Zealand! Yay!

The key is to try new things and feel yourself out, all while moving forward. Throughout the years, I’ve experimented with ways to help soothe my nerves while in the skies and have found my own recipe for the tried-and-true. Check out my must-list below and don’t forget to comment what you think/your own ways of coping in the skies!

1. Get Excited

I know, I know. You may be thinking “what the –, I’m more nervous than anything!” Yes. I know. But hear me out: by replacing the word “nervous” with “excited” whenever you think it, your brain will ease up on the anxiety and move into the ‘joyful anticipation’ bucket. Say it out loud: “I’m excited!” with a big smile on your face and notice the difference. Try it right now! Repeat after me with a big smile: “I’m SO excited!!”

Sure, there is always going to be a little nervousness in the background, but let’s be honest, you’re getting on a plane to a destination you don’t get to go to every day– that’s pretty exciting! Put some photos of the destination you’re headed to on your phone and flip through them, imagining yourself there and think about something you are most looking forward to. Always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Have a cool reservation at that “must” restaurant in Cabo? Getting a close look at the Niagra Falls in Canada? Think about that special, cool thing you’re going to do and let that propel you into excitement versus nervousness! Traveling is amazing and you’re doing it — woohoo!!

2. Carry Essential Oils

After my first panic attack, I went through a cleanse to rid my body of toxins and, with it, went any and all over-the-counter drugs that I have ever taken. Since then, I’ve turned to essential oils and I always make sure to take them with me as I swear by them. The two essential oils that I always carry with me are lavender and peppermint; they come in small bottles that are perfect to fit inside your clear plastic bag when going through TSA at the airport.

Lavender oil helps calm nerves with its soothing properties and can soothe you into a peaceful state of mind, maybe even helping you catch a few Z’s on the plane. Before takeoff, I like to apply one drop on the inside of each of my wrists, rub them together and then place my wrists up to my nose, inhaling for three, deep and relaxed breaths. Ahhh.

For headaches, I use peppermint oil, topically, one drop on each of my temples; it works so well that I haven’t popped a single Advil nor Tylenol in my mouth in years. Also, once you get to your destination, why try to deal with buying something for headaches in another country that could be in another language and may come with different pharmaceutical standards? Avoid the hassle and bring your own natural oils!

3. Browse the Airport Village

At least, that’s what I like to call that part of the airport after security where stores and restaurants await you. Go ham just bouncing in and out, checking out what the latest at the airport is. I find that the bookstores have some of the best selections, especially at international terminals. You can even sit down for a meal at a restaurant, just like you would any other day outside of the airport. I find that this helps me ease into the “traveling” way of life and helps me deem flying as just a normal part of the day; we may catch trains, busses or drive our own cars, and while a plane may be less frequent, it’s still a mode of trusted transport. You got this :).

4. Skip the Alcoholic Drinks

I know, it may seem better to numb the nerves, but I’ve personally found that alcohol up in the air can make me feel disoriented and dehydrating. It’s important, with anxiety, that you go through the waves of your feelings and meet them with acknowledgement, rather than suppressing them and making them worse later on. This leads me to what I do love to drink:

5. Drink Herbal Teas

Herbal teas contain no caffeine and do not give way to shaky hands and a faster heart rate. By removing caffeine, which is also dehydrating, you can rid yourself of ‘anxiety triggers’ and travel in more peace. I’ve eliminated coffee and caffeinated teas (like black, green and matcha) from my diet for years now and I’ve seen a huge difference. Next time you want a hot drink, ask for an herbal tea such as: peppermint, chamomile or lemon. The way I like to do it? Bringing my own tea bags and asking the attendant for a cup of hot water.

Ron Teeguarden’s Dragon Herbs are caffeine-free with a slightly sweet and super yummy taste; each teabag can yield two cups of tea and it works in a way that if you drink it in the morning, it gives you a revitalized boost of natural energy and, if drunk at night, can wind you down. I love my dragon herb teas and always travel with them! 

Another tea that I love is an oldie but a goodie: Celestial’s Sleepy Time Tea. I know some people may take sleeping pills for flights, but as I mentioned before, I avoid OTC drugs and try to do things the more natural way. I love drinking Sleepy Time Tea when I want to get some rest on a flight, though you will catch me drinking these when at home, too! It just makes your night’s rest that much more peaceful :).  As you’re winding down, make sure you are comfortable with my next tip:

6. Bring Comfort Up With You

Feeling comfortable is important, even 30k miles up on the air. I’ve been on a very uncomfortable 8-hour flight and a very comfortable 12-hour flight; the difference wasn’t the time, but how cozy I was during the flight.

If you have a favorite travel pillow, headphone set, warm socks, hat, whatever, bring it with you. As humans, we love the feeling of comfort, and it does make the difference. My favorite must-have on planes?

  1. My Cocoon CoolMax BlanketI LOVE this blanket. Not only does it keep you warm on the plane, you can use it for road trips, train rides or around a campfire on a cold night! It comes in a little black cloth carrying case and is super packable. I highly recommend it!
  2. My Slip Silk Eyemask. It’s so super soft and gentle for your eyes. I’ve tried a couple of different ones ranging in prices from low to high and honestly prefer this one the best. My husband actually loved it so much when he tried it on for kicks, that we ended up getting him one, too! When it’s time for a snooze, you go down feeling like a million bucks in the air.

7. Stay Hydrated

Water, water, water. So super important and can help keep some jet lag effects at bay. Not only will you be doing your body good by taking it in, but every time you need to relieve yourself at the loo, you’ll be adding in some steps, sneaking in that extra few minutes of stretching your legs to keep that blood flowing. For an extra boost in electrolytes, I always carry Recover Ors packets with me when traveling. I like to add in a packet every five hours of flying to some water and find that I don’t get any dehydration headaches when in air nor when I land!

8. Keep Snacks Handy

Especially if you have any dietary restrictions. Last thing you want to do is feel helpless and hungry so high up in the skies. I always make sure to grab some goodies for my flight after I pass security (as they won’t let you bring *outside food* inside). You can browse around the ‘airport village’ (you’ll be saying it, too, in no time- haha) or, if in a sincere pinch, head to Starbucks (almost every airport has them I feel!). Here is my list of goodies that I grab: bottle of water, banana, dark chocolate and a protein box (usually comes with apples, peanut butter, boiled egg, slice of cheese and a little piece of sweet bread). It’s my fave in-flight combo and I don’t feel anxious trying to get someone’s attention constantly for every little hankering :).

9. Journal Your Feelings

Notebook and pen: I owe my road to recovery with anxiety to journaling. There is something about getting your thoughts that keep running around in your head OUT and down on paper. Taking the time to form sentences means that you are putting your thoughts together, cohesively, and it helps you see things clearer in front of you. Not only that, but if I am flying above a beautiful mountain range of fluffy white clouds, I feel nothing short of grateful and take the time to write down those positive things. Plus, my notes will be memories for when I look back at it weeks/months from then! <3.

Let me know in the comments below if you found these helpful!
Happy Travels! xoxo

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Brooklyn native, Latina, and founder of Enlightened by Bravery, an adventure/travel and wellness blog that focuses on drawing inspiration from adventures around the world back into your life // iPhoneographer // Francophile

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F.

Fear of Popping a Balloon: Exposed

I know, I know.  It seems silly to be afraid of a balloon popping; but, truth be told, it was one of my greatest fears.  I know it may be trivial to some, but sometimes small things like these are earth shattering to others.

One of the reasons why I want to talk about it today is because I actually met someone this week that has the same fear I once had!  (I thought I was the only one!)

Living with Fear and Getting Over It
I could never be around balloons because they always filled me with anxiety.

I think my fear stemmed from when I was young and was forced to play that terrible game of ‘balloon pop’.  Many of the birthday parties I went to had the game where money would be stuffed inside the balloon and the only way to get it was to pop it.  While it seemed innocent, I was actually traumatized by cousins who would take the balloon, put a fork to it, and pop it in my face.  Left… POP.  Right… POP.  Under you… POP. “Hey Loren!… POP!”  Popping was going on everywhere!  And after many birthdays, I suddenly found myself with a fear.

Fast forward to being an adult and cringing when balloons came into the frame; it actually wasn’t so ‘cute’ anymore.  And, since it’s somewhat rare, it makes you seem a little… different.  I will never forget that one meeting at work (with about one hundred people in attendance) that ended with a balloon drop; I ran away from that meeting into another room.  While I let people know why I was acting funky and they seemed to understand, I knew deep down inside that there was something more to it than just balloons.

A few months ago, for my birthday, I asked my husband to buy me balloons.  And he did.
lorenbirthday
Being afraid of a balloon didn’t mean just trying to get over the loud sound, but it meant getting over an anxiety that was housed inside of me for so many years.  And this fear just so happened to be masked with an elastic rubber that comes in a multitude of colours.

A balloon popping is something sudden and usually surprising.  And that was the problem, I was not one to want to be surprised, because I needed to know everything.  I needed to be in control.  I didn’t know how to react to a sudden or surprising thing.  The way I reacted when someone teased me by putting a fork to a balloon in my adult life was not normal.  I freaked out, cried and screamed.  And you know what?  I let them get away with it.  I let myself get weak, back down, and never challenged them by saying “Go on, do it.”  I was then teased. Constantly.  I let that get added to my list of insecurities and it was my own fault.

So, for my birthday last year, I said enough was enough.  I was tired of running away.  I was tired of anxiety. So I took a ballon and, after a bit of hesitation, popped it!  I then cried.  But, funny enough, I immediately started to laugh.

I then turned into a little bit of a crazy lady and grabbed all of the balloons around the house and popped them all.  It was so therapeutic and I felt years of anxiety melt away!  Not only that, but I grew confident.  Having a fear and just going for it head-on is intimidating, but it honestly is how you get over things sometimes.  And I proved to myself that it wasn’t just with a balloon that I could take this experience and apply it to; there were so many other parts of my life that could use this newfound ‘bravery’.  I tackled a champagne bottle the following week- ha!  But then I also confronted someone  via conversation.  I didn’t let the ‘what-if”s’ get in the way of me moving forward.  And that was a big learning for me, especially since it came from such a small thing.

Meeting Someone with the Same Fear
So this week, I had the pleasure of meeting myself.  It was actually someone else, but I saw a lot of the ‘old me’ in the ‘present her’. While I know our lives aren’t the same and we have different things that attest to who we are today, the anxiety was there.  So I sat with her and told her my story.  She was very much inspired, which I could tell, and was very humbled by.  We had a video shoot that day which included balloons and, by the end of the day, I saw her being able to look at balloons in a different way.  She didn’t exactly pop a ballon -and I wouldn’t have expected her to- but I saw that she was being very brave and built up the courage to take baby steps forward instead of running back to what she always deemed as ‘safe’.  She was laughing the whole day and I was so happy to know that sharing just a bit of my own experience with her gave her some sort of ‘hope’.  Even if it’s very minimal, it still brought a smile to my face knowing that I helped someone.

Again, again!
I can proudly say that I can pop a balloon with no problem these days.  I have this little bit of ‘guilty pleasure’ while doing it, which is actually quite funny.  But, ever since then, I proved that I could become more confident and that I do have it in me to be my strongest self.  All it takes is just some self-listening to what it is that you really want in your life, taking the plunge, and trusting yourself.

We went to the park today and I thought I would commemorate that day and my conversation with the girl I had this week by popping a balloon!
lorenballoon1

Unfortunately my hand slipped and popped the balloon too quick for me to even plan it. Haha

lorenballoon2

The surprise and suddenness didn’t freak me out though; I actually enjoyed it and laughed it off!

loren35

I encourage you to just think about a little fear you may have and why you may have it.  And, if you find yourself building up the courage to say “enough is enough,” then do something that will help you get over your little fear.  You may be afraid now, but in a couple of months, you could laugh it off and help someone else.  You never know :).

lorenballoon3

Have a wonderful week everyone! 🙂
Loren.

A.

Anxiety & Eating: How they go hand in hand (part: I)

White rice, whole milk, frozen dinner entrées, ice cream, lots of soda, beef patties, and cake.

These were some of the things I ate growing up; heck, there were some days that I ate all of these in a single day.  It was definitely a kid’s dream come true.  But ‘kid’ defined me from the moment I could chew my food to, literally, a couple of months ago.  I have been eating ‘clean’ for about two months or so now and, I must say, my anxiety level has gone down and my positive mood has gone up.

But, before I get to the current, positive moment of eating clean, I think it’s good to reflect and see how the ‘bad’ foods helped support the anxiety that was built inside me for many years:

You know, I grew up in a very loving family that taught me a lot about respect, values, and how to love.  But one thing that I was never really taught was how to eat properly.  Yes, there was always food on the table, food in the pantry, and food in the fridge, but they were all ‘quick’ things.  My meals were very predictable, too.  Breakfast was pancakes (from a box), drenched with a sugary (addictive) processed syrup.  Lunch was take-out from the local Chinese food place.  Dinner meant rice, beans, chicken, and maybe a salad.  And then the night concluded with lots of ice cream, cookies, and maybe a second round of dinner.  The only real time I would eat fruits were if we went out to the farms during the summer and went apple or peach picking – but even then there wasn’t any kind of portion control.  I would have about eight giant peaches on my way home because the giant basket (filled with nothing but that) was sitting in the car!  And then I would be tired of peaches.  I would refuse them.  When I got home it would be all “oh, hello, microwaveable bacon!”  And I went on with my life.  ‘Happy’ at the time, sad looking back at it now.

My life consisted of processed foods, filled with chemicals that I couldn’t even pronounce.  They had absolutely no nutritional value, but they made me feel ‘good’ for a quick moment.  The things inside of all of those things were alien to my body and acted like a drug.  Actually, they were my drugs.  Because that time I was seven years old and my grandmother passed away, I held back my tears because I was subliminally told that I shouldn’t be a cry baby and that sharing my emotions towards other people was a ‘personal’ thing.  This emotion was mended with me eating a whole loaf of white, processed bread, toasted with tons of trans-fatty butter and a giant glass of sugary chocolate milk.  And that time I got an eighty-eight on my math test in the eighth grade and was told that I could do better and needed to get nothing but one-hundreds?  Well, that made me feel like I was a total failure.  But there it was, that very fatty fourteen-ounce tub of ice cream and giant bag of addicting chips to help mend my broken heart and mind.  So while I was ‘healing’ my heart and mind with food, I was actually holding a lot of things back (anger, frustration, confusion, etc.) and burying them deep, deep down inside. (That explains those times I’ve cried during yoga, huh?)  So you start to become anxious.  Hating the next time you feel this way.  And it all continues to build up.  Every little bit counts.

My emotions were controlled with eating: failure was rewarded with sugary fats and successes, if I felt I had them, were rewarded with greasy foods (pizza party, anyone?).  And I grew up like this.  I was confused, trying to figure life out, restricting my self-desires to come out, and hoping to make everyone but myself happy.  I found comfort in food.  But the food I was eating didn’t give me any clarity; I couldn’t think things through with a ‘clear mind’.  All it was doing was fogging up my mind.  They served zero nutritional value, but made me ‘happy’.  Voilà, my adolescent (and well-into-my-adult-hood) drugs.

Side note:  you could only imagine how self-image played a role in this.  Why, with all of this poor eating, I wasn’t exactly ‘fit’.  I was ‘fat’.  And the media hated ‘fat’.  They said that that it wasn’t ‘beautiful.’  So, naturally, I also grew up with very low self-esteem, telling myself that I was ‘ugly’, ‘useless’, and a ‘failure’ every day.  My confidence level was lower than a turtle’s.   And this is how I grew up.  For more than twenty years, this was my life.

circa high school graduation - 2006
high school graduation – 2006

After years of suppressing my own happiness, and right before my giant panic attack last summer, I noticed a few months worth of terrible abdominal pain.  Not only that, but I was also very bloated and starting to become a bit overweight.  Worried, I went to a gastroenterologist (tummy & digestion doctor) and found out that I was lactose intolerant… great.

My life seemed to have shattered at the instant of being diagnosed, because it meant that I could no longer have the ice cream, yogurt, pizza, or cake that once mended my wounds.  I did play devil’s advocate and ate them anyway, but felt the consequences within thirty minutes of consuming the stuff.

2013 - before panic attack - after being diagnosed as lactose intolerant
summer 2013 – 2 weeks after being diagnosed as lactose intolerant & 2 weeks before panic attack

So it was true, after all.  I was lactose intolerant.  Two weeks before my I-didn’t-even-see-it-coming giant panic attack, I had to adjust.  And that was hard.  I didn’t really know how to adjust.  I never learned.  And looking back at it today, part of me thinks that the attack maybe came out from being forced to learn how to live with some confrontations and without some of those drugs.  I was starting to be confronted by my own self.

I didn’t know how to deal then.  But today, I am learning how to deal now (next post – stay tuned!).

But until then, be kind to your body.  Think back to those times you maybe reached for that thing you shouldn’t have reached for.  Think of what you were running away from.  Starting to slowly think about these things will help open up and shape you for a better tomorrow.  Don’t resolve to continue suppressing emotions with food.  Eat well.  You are beautiful. Who cares about the media.  They don’t pay your bills, you pay their bills.  They don’t give you a hug when you need it the most.  And this applies to others around you.  There is only one person like you out there and you deserve the absolute best.  The road to a better tomorrow starts with this type of first step… and it starts from within.

Loren.