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  • Mattie Bohanan

Caregiving Includes Caring for Self

When I was preparing for the dreaded CFI check-ride, it was all-consuming. It didn’t help that I was preparing for it during the original COVID-19 shutdown, so there was nothing else to do but study, fly, and…. worry.

Intrusive (and irrational) thoughts of embarrassment and career sabotage if I failed lurked in the back of my mind. Self-doubt was also running rampage; I contemplated if I even knew what an airplane was! I still felt uneasy two weeks away from my check-ride, so I knew I had to make a game plan.

While it might be easy to implement self-care on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to neglect during times of high stress. Since caregiving for me also means caregiving for those who come after me, I wanted to dedicate today’s blog to share some of my tips/techniques on how to combat the infamous check-itis.

1. Reaffirm yourself in two ways: One, that you are prepared and have proven so to your instructor. Your instructor would not put you up if you weren’t ready to successfully take your check-ride. Look back at successful flights and grounds to serve as concrete evidence of how prepared you are! Two, that this one check-ride does not make or break your pilot career. It is rare to make it through pilot training without any hiccups. Regardless of the outcome, you will come out the other side of the check ride a better pilot. We learn and grow from mistakes, and exactly that is what’s of utmost importance: learning.

2. Put down the books: Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t overdo it! While I studied every day for two weeks straight leading up to my CFI check-ride, I made a strict schedule. I forced myself to take timely lunch breaks and relax. I also set a reasonable time at night to be done studying. The day before, be sure to put down the books. Take the time to do some simple review and get everything organized. This will be hard, but there is nothing that you will learn at this point that will make or break the check-ride. Instead, try to do a relaxing activity that takes your mind off the stress.

3. Surround yourself with your support group: It is so beneficial to know who your biggest fans are for times like these. My natural defense mechanism is to keep these people out of the loop until afterward, out of fear of embarrassment. However, when I consciously make the decision to keep them in the loop, I get a humble reminder that regardless of the outcome, I am still “Mattie” at the end of the day. And that’s what ultimately matters. These people love you for y-o-u, not what you can or can’t do.

4. Drink plenty of water, eat well, and get some rest. Also, if you enjoy exercising, make time for this, too: I am a firm believer that your physiological state has a large part in performance. I have a huge sweet tooth, and I do not like to cook my own meals - what can I say. But, leading up to my check ride I try to ensure that my body has all its essentials and fuel that it needs to be its best!

Now that it’s time to take your check ride, enjoy it! The best check ride advice I got was from my father. He shared with me, “just take one minute while you are flying to appreciate the fact that you are flying. You will remember the flight for the rest of your life no matter what, so you might as well take in the moment and make it enjoyable.”

After putting the above into practice (and after a seven-hour oral and three-hour flight later,) I was officially a certified flight instructor! I saw how my worries were for nothing, but I also felt reaffirmed in my methodical self-care approach as part of my preparation. It’s hard to hold yourself accountable to a strategy like this, especially when you might feel guilty for putting yourself first over the books. However, it really does conduce a rewarding outcome. If anything else, a strategy of any sort will at least help you know that you truly have given it all your all when the time comes.

If you have any tips/techniques to help combat check-it is, I would love to hear them! Feel free to share them in the comments below. Happy flying!

Mattie is a CFI/CFII and a Graduate Research Assistant at Auburn University, where she is pursuing an M.Ed. in Adult Education. She enjoys drinking her morning coffee, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

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