Put On Your Own Mask First

[Dutch Lock Down Day Four Hundred Seventy]

As told at Short Stack Conference this morning!

Trigger Warning: This talk contains information about sexual assault and violence which may be triggering to survivors. 

I’d like to pretend that you’ll never need to know how to help a friend because we all live in a world without war, violence or abuse. Without trauma. But. Just in case my pretend world doesn’t exist and you find yourself needing to help someone. 

Or to help yourself. 

Listen up.

Recovering from trauma feels like a roller coaster with rumination, flashbacks, depression, anxiety, and hypervigilance. 

I’d like to invite you to get off of the roller coaster and board Leander Air where we’ll learn how to help our friends who have experienced trauma.

Hello and thank you for flying with Leander Air. A few announcements as we begin our talk. There is no safety card in the seat in front of you, unless you’re watching this from a flight in which case, where are you headed today?

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

“Keep your seat belt fastened.”

When you’re hungry, the world seems like a very dark place. With something in your belly, it’s not so dark. Immediately following trauma, one of the most basic things to forget is food. Eat. Even if it’s just a quick protein shake.

250 grams of almond milk, one banana, two tablespoons of protein powder, one tablespoon of flaxseed, and one heaping spoon of peanut butter. Blend it up, drink it down.

And set an alarm on your phone to eat at least three times a day. Even if you’re not hungry.

I understand it, but your body needs food to survive and you need calories to heal.

“Find your closest exit.”

If you or someone you love is in danger of hurting themselves or others, call 112 or 911 or whatever the emergency line is in your country and ask for help. 

“A life vest is located under your seat.”

While, yes, a life vest is probably NOT located under your seat, there are several coping strategies that are already within your reach.

Go For a Walk

Get outside. In any weather. There’s no shitty weather, just shitty clothes. Put on the rain boots, the raincoat, and, sure, the rain pants. Don’t forget all those layers. Yup, that extra scarf, too. Those gloves. It doesn’t matter how you look as long as you’re warm. Now GO.

Drink a Cup of Tea

Or coffee, if you prefer. Put the kettle on. Not too much water so it can boil faster. Is it before 1400? Black tea with lots of milk. After 1400? Green Tea with Lemon, please. The goal is to do a little familiar ritual that you did when you were healthy – like making a cup of tea or coffee – and raising your temperature inside AND out. While you’re sipping your hot drink, wrap up in a favourite blanket. Put on those soft jammies. Get that temperature UP.


Those super simple chocolate chip cookies with two cups of sifted flour, one cup of melted butter, one cup of sugar, a teaspoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of vanilla, a pinch of salt, an egg, and as much chocolate as you like? Bake those. Use your hands. Get messy.

“Please let us know if you need any help.”

After a trauma, please seek help. 

Ideally professional help, but I totally get it if that seems overwhelming at first. 

If you don’t feel like you can reach out to anyone you know, I’m “rainleander” on twitter.

You do not need to suffer alone. What you’re feeling is completely normal and understandable. 

“Be sure to put your mask on before helping others.”

You can’t help others if you need help, too. 

OK, as we get ready for the end of this talk, please check that your seatbelts are fastened, seats and tray-tables are up and your electronics are off. As the crew comes through to make a final cabin check, please let us know if you have any questions or need any help.