As I talked about in my “Traveling with a Mood Disorder: An Introduction”, up until March 2017 I had never left the United States. So, when I had an opportunity to travel to Australia through the Nevada Global Business Program at UNR to earn credit towards my MBA I jumped on the opportunity.
The route I was taking to Australia was from Reno-Tahoe International Airport to LAX to Sydney International. I arrived at the Reno Airport about 3 hours early to ensure there were no issues with TSA or my baggage. Normally I hate sitting in an airport for this long but I was excited to be at the airport and felt that I was one step closer to Australia.
There were nine other people from the same program taking the same flight as I was to LAX and then to Sydney. We quickly got to know each other and it was a grand time. That is until one of the United workers got on the loud speaker and told us that due to weather and LAX traffic that our flight was delayed by about 30 minutes but not to worry because it would not affect our connecting flight to Sydney. We were all relieved and continued to talk and get to know our travel companions.
25 minutes after the first announcement the same worker got on the loud speaker again and said that the flight was delayed by another hour and a half and now our connection was at risk. My heart immediately dropped and I began to panic. A few of my classmates went to talk to the worker and figure out what our options were. The information we got was just we need to play it by ear and see what happens once we get in the air. There was a chance that we would make our connecting flight but just as strong, if not a stronger chance that we would miss the connection.
Now I do not like too much uncertainty and I am a planner. Planning has become a way that I can manage my diagnosis. It calms me down having some kind of idea what is going to happen. I began to feel the onset of a panic attack and I knew that one of the last things that I wanted in this moment was to have a panic attack. I recently read an article on 4 ways to curb a panic attack and decided that this moment was the perfect opportunity to put the advice into action.
The first thing was to connect to my senses. I was success in creating distance from my anxious thoughts and was able to calm myself a bit. The next thing I did was visualizing my anxious feelings and watching them float away like a cloud in the sky. (both techniques I read in the aforementioned article) After this I was able to successfully curb my panic attack and refocus myself to what was currently happening in the airport.
Once I refocused myself to what was currently at hand, I began to assess the situation and everyone in my group. For the most part my group was understanding and calm about what was going on because there was nothing we were going to be able to do about the delay and we wouldn’t know about the connecting flight until we landed in LAX.
Now looking back on my choice to fly through LAX, I feel that there was actually a pretty significant chance that we were going to get delayed in LAX. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics flights arriving into LAX are were delayed roughly 23% of the time and flights departing LAX were delayed roughly 23% of the time in 2016.
When we got to LAX we found out that we missed out connecting flight to Sydney and that we were going to be delayed by 24 hours since there is only one flight from LAX to Sydney daily. I quickly accepted the circumstance and tried to stay as positive as possible. Unfortunately, there were a few people in the group whose emotions got the best of them and they weren’t able to stay calm. There is no judgement in this statement, just a fact that was obvious to any observer.
These members of the group were very upset about the situation and made it well known that they were upset. I wasn’t sure how to react to them because on one hand I understood where they were coming from since I was also frustrated with the situation but on the other hand I knew that getting upset wasn’t going to do anything other than put a damper on the trip. I chose to stay positive and “go with the flow” per the advice of my professor.
This choice wasn’t a difficult one at first but as time went on it became harder and harder. The negativity seemed to be contagious and it took an active effort to make sure that I was not sucked into this negativity. To help make sure I wasn’t sucked into the negativity, I tried to remind myself of the wonderful trip that I had in front of me and that a little hiccup would not ruin the whole trip.
One member of our group, which we named the Terrible Ten, spoke to the United workers at customer service and was able to finagle us four rooms. Four rooms were plenty for all of us to stay in and were much better than sleeping in LAX for the night.
The next day we broke up and a few of us worked on homework and ate lunch near the airport and hotel and the other part of the group went to Santa Monica Boardwalk for the day. At this point in time the negativity had subsided a bit since we were all trying to make the best of the situation we were in and the day in LA was pretty enjoyable considering we weren’t in Sydney.
About 4 hours before our flight was set to board and we were waiting for the shuttle to the airport, we found out that since we would be arriving late, we were going to miss out on the planned trip to the wildlife reserve and the hike of the Blue Mountain. Everyone was pretty devastated. These two activities were two of the most exciting activities of the trip and the thought of not seeing a kangaroo, a joey, or a koala broke my heart. I kept my disappointment internal while some of the other members of the group vocalized their disappoint. Again it was difficult not to allow myself to fall into this negativity and in this situation I just removed myself and allowed myself to feel the disappointment in my own time.
When we finally arrived at the airport and got all checked in and were at our gate, I had felt the entirety of the disappointment and went back to my go with the flow mindset. There was a moment where I got agitated after an unpleasant encounter with an employee at a restaurant in LAX but after I went to the Rolling Stone Bar and Grill and had a salad and had a lovely conversation with a kind bartender, I was back to my go with the flow mentality.
I was able to handle this stressful situation by utilizing my mindfulness practices and staying in the moment and feeling what I needed to feel. I was worried and upset but I wasn’t going to let anything ruin my mood, no matter how hard it was at the moment. There were a few other hiccups along the way, but I’ll save those stories for another post.
If you have ever been in a similar situation please feel free to comment below on how you handled it! Until next time, look at these 4 Ways to Curb a Panic Attack in case you begin experiencing anxious thoughts and feelings!