The plane jostles and shakes, as if we’re riding a bucking bronco in a rodeo. The overhead, ever-so-polite DING sounds to indicate the fasten our seat belts icon has illuminated again. Barely a moment passes before the airplane’s intercom crackles to life, suspending all of the in-flight movies. First in German, and then in English, we’re informed of turbulence. Yup. Kind of hoping that’s all it is. Sebastian squeezes my hand, and I squeeze his back. I take a deep breath. It's time to break out one of my tools for mentally getting through the heart stopping moments of turbulence when my imagination wants to concentrate on every single horrible, tragic ending to my situation.
1. Mental Images: Good Imagination For Peace of Mind
A therapist from college taught me how, and it's the closest I’ve ever felt to being a jedi. First you imagine white light. Starting from inside you, you envision the light, and concentrate on expanding it, pushing it out as if you’re in a bubble of white light. Personally, I take this a step further and imagine a polar bear, my favorite animal, something that brings me peace and a spark of joy. For you, it's probably a different animal, or a person, or a good memory, or a place. Famously, in my favorite movie French Kiss, Meg Ryan’s character Kate has a little cottage she’s supposed to imagine. Or if you’re a Harry Potter fan, think of the Expecto Patronum spell, what’s your Patronus?
2. Bottle Up Your Happy Place
When you start to panic during turbulence, break out your good smells. If you have a calming essential oil you like, a book that’s sporting the new book smell, or a sweatshirt that smells like home, get it out, close your eyes, and breathe it in. Let your nose fool you into believing you’re anywhere else but on a plane. Smell is our only sense that projects directly to the amygdala, a center connected with emotion and memory. Using smells during emotionally heightened episodes, like turbulence on a plane, can retrieve pleasant memories more powerfully than other senses.
3. Tick Tock, Tick Tock
Hyperventilating? Being told to take a deep breath isn’t very helpful is it? Something that helps me find my rhythm is a ticking clock. Look into downloading a sound or nature app on your phone. Most of them have an old fashioned clock and more. I’ve seen one that has a cat purring sound. Anything that is regular and a soothing sound can help regulating your breaths or heart rate. Yes, the next time the plane lurches suddenly you'll have to start over again, but it gets easier.
4. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward To
Notoriously, the flight back from German to the U.S. is worse as far as turbulence goes, with the plane fighting against the wind and jet streams the whole time. Once, personally I experienced turbulence over the Atlantic that dragged on for hours. You may need a long-term plan. Save the next few episodes of a TV show you’re currently loving to binge watch during the turbulence. Similarly, get hooked on a new book a few days before your departure date so you can’t wait to jump back in again. Don’t buy a new book that you may or may not get into, take one whose world you’re already distracted and enthralled with.
What has gotten you through seemingly never-ending turbulence?
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!