As a response to my last post on long haul flying – I feel as though this is a topic I can rightly talk about! I have been scared of flying for a very long time – those of you who are also in this boat, know how unhelpful it can be when a fellow confident flyer learns of this fact then begins to spout statistics at you. ‘Did you know that you are more likely to be killed by a donkey on a skateboard in a forest than on a plane?’ etc etc, but they don’t understand – that may be the case, but on MY flight, then the statistics suddenly mean nothing! They won’t make me feel any better as I’m hurtling along in a small metal tube thousands of feet in the air.
So hopefully – I have a few tips which have helped transform me from the girl hyperventilating and weeping on row 23 to the girl who feels slight anxiety but gets on with it without having to medicate.
1 – Don’t work yourself up in the days/weeks before a flight
It’s easy to make the flight a huge deal in your mind – the more you work yourself up, the worse your anxiety will be when you get to the flight and you may not even realize you are doing it. I think it’s really important to notice that you are having these thoughts and try to acknowledge the thought, realize it is irrational then put it to the side. It’s also good to have something else to think of instead – sometimes I will book myself a nice massage (or something you really enjoy which you don’t do much) the day before a flight – that way whenever I get a bit worried about it, I can just think about being excited about my massage instead.
2 – Bring support on the flight, or find support when you are by yourself
I usually find it easier to fly with others – however, this may sound strange, I find it better when the person I am flying with doesn’t try to reassure me the flight is fine. I think if the person you are with just goes about the flight like it is a totally normal occurrence then whenever I have a stab of anxiety – I can look over, see that they are calmly just reading/sleeping etc, then it is is easier to rationalize in your mind that everything is fine and stop that little doubting voice getting over the top!
If you fly by yourself then it is handy to find a member of the cabin crew when you first board and let them know you are a nervous flyer – usually they will come up to you during the flight to make sure you are okay, or just give you a reassuring smile as they pass through the cabin. If you do end up getting scared or worked up then they will know whats wrong and will (usually) try and help!
3 – Identify the bits of the flight which cause the most anxiety and get smart
I really hate take off the most – all the different noises from the engines/wings/wheels get me really stressed! By identifying that this was the bit that really drove my anxiety, I looked into what the normal noises were and got comfortable with the fact that taking off is never going to be totally silent. I then figured out the best way to deal with this was to get some earplugs and a good book to bury my head in, then as soon as I can, I have a calming play list on my ipod.
I also highly recommend sitting on the aisle so that you are able to get up, have a small walk, get to the bathroom and put some cool water on your face to keep yourself calm – Tip: it’s always good to bring a flannel with you on the plane! Along with that, it’s great to sit as close to the front as possible as it tends to be quieter and not as affected by turbulence.
4 – Turbulence – how to cope?
I still hate turbulence – it is one of the worst bits of flying! You have finally calmed yourself down and have almost convinced yourself that are just in some strange loud squashed bus when suddenly the whole plane starts bouncing and dropping – horribly reminding you of exactly where you are!
The best thing I found in regards to this was realizing that out of all things to be scared of on a plane – turbulence isn’t it. A plane can deal with extreme turbulence – a lot fiercer than the typical little bumps you get on commercial flights. I’ve had two good analogies for this – first imagining that it’s like a bus, and you have just hit a slightly bumpy road, or imagine the plane is flying near a bath full of bubbles, if it hits a bubble then the bubble pops which causes a change in the path of the plane – this is what turbulence is, nothing more.
Also it’s good to note that if they put the seat belt sign on, it’s just because they don’t want you to fall over and sue them – nothing to do with whether or not the plane itself is in danger.
5 – Breathing
I won’t go too much into this – I might do a full post if people are interested, but breathing is so so important. Usually when you are feeling anxious, it is normal for your breathing to increase or to hold your breath – keep your mind on this, slow your breathing, focus on counting your exhalations to five and this will be a huge help to calm you down on a flight.
I hope that is useful to some of you! What do you do to stay comfortable on a plane?