I mentioned in my post yesterday that I’ve done a ridiculous amount of travelling for business over the past week. Three cities, four flights, crazy early mornings, late nights and back to back meetings have taken their toll. I am exhausted, my throat is sore but I did it!
Why you ask?
A few reason’s really. Firstly, I used to suffer with aerophobia. Sounds crazy right? Well I won’t lie, between that, my depression and my anxiety, I guess, I am a little crazy! It all started out with the 911 attacks, Walter was in Germany at the time of the attacks, he flew out a day later and I was terrified. It took him almost 12 hours to clear customs and it was just insanity.
At around the same time, I went on a business trip to Cape Town with a previous employer, where aside from insane turbulence, the landing gear of the plane would also not engage and we landed up flying in circles before we could land. Then my infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss came along and taught me that irrespective of statistics and risk analysis, worst case scenario was to be expected and I became a basket case, terrified and phobic of just about everything, but most especially flying.
It’s been a long road to recovery.
And the only way I could get over my fear of flying was to force myself to do it, frequently. It’s taken about 6 years to recover, and has meant a lot of flights spent white knuckling and gripping the seat in front of me, hyperventilating and overdosing on anxiety medication but I eventually got there.
I am no longer afraid to fly.
But the thing with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) is that silly, everyday events can literally paralyze me with fear. So my two, back to back business trips had me in a spin!
I can’t even really tell you what was scaring me. It wasn’t the flying, I was perfectly fine on the flights. I think it’s more the disruption to my routine, which I use as a coping mechanism to control my anxiety. Mess with my routine and I go into a flat spin!
By last week Wednesday, I was literally shut down from anxiety on the eve of my first trip! I went from Cape Town to Jozi and from Jozi to Durban. I was away from my routine and my family and all the things that keep me feeling secure and my anxiety relatively in check, to being completely out of control. I was so shut down last Wednesday evening, I couldn’t even manage to tuck my kids into bed, the last time I’d see them for 5 days!
And business travel is a part of my job. It’s something I’ll be doing on an almost monthly basis in the year ahead. So I’ve had to learn some basic comping mechanisms!
Here are my tips for coping with business travel if you suffer with anxiety!
Check In Early!
I know it seems ridiculous! But I check in exactly 24 hours before departure, when my flight opens for check in. This allows me to choose my seat, and on Kulula flights, I always sit in rows 15 – 17 (emergency exit rows) with extra leg room and a window seat, then pray like hell I don’t get stuck next to some random person. This happened on my flight to Durban on Monday. Some random dude sat next to me and no matter how much I monosyllabically I answered his questions, he kept talking. Even when I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the window! HELLO ANXIETY!
The early check in also gives me a sense of control. That everything will be ok, that there won’t be some dreadful disaster when I arrive at the airport that prevents me from missing or boarding my flight!
Set Multiple Alarms!
Especially for the damn red eye flights that depart at 6am, require a 5am airport arrival and a 3:30am wake up. I usually don’t sleep the night before because I worry so much that I will sleep through the alarms and miss my flight. So now I set 3 alarms and have my husband double check they are set correctly.
Preparation is EVERYTHING!
Because business travel, unlike fun travel, is usually back to back meetings and rushing from one point to another, with no time to eat or drink. I prepare well. I always keep a snack of biltong or salami sticks in my bag. I have a batter bank on hand, make sure my Kindle is charged up for spare moments of reading, especially on the plane and always carry water because I get so dehydrated on these rushed trips that I usually land up with a banging headache.
All The Pills!
I always keep a stash of headache tablets with me because I invariably get a headache! I also have to double check that I have my anxiety and depression medication on me, because otherwise I’ll just go plain loopy. And then I carry a stash of Rescue tabs with me. I’m not even sure if they actually do anything, but just knowing they are there, calms me.
Timing Is Everything!
I try to give myself enough time to get ready, finish my packing and get to where I need to be, wherever that is with enough time to spare. This also allows me to feel calmer about my trips. No crazy dash to the airport. No rush to a meeting. No frantic dash anywhere.
On this last trip, I got that down so well, I even managed a stop over at the beach before heading to a meeting!
Do you struggle with anxiety? What are your tips for preparing for trips while being frozen by anxiety?