So, here’s a personal paradox of mine; I love travelling (beaches, cities, deserts, mountains, tundra… let’s go!) but… I’m absolutely terrified of flying. It doesn’t stop me from making travel plans, but the minute the booking confirmation lands in my inbox the usual anxiety starts to creep in. I can relegate it to the back of my mind for a while, but the week before the flight? Oof. That’s when things get messy.
I battle with the voice in my head insisting that despite there being thousands of flights a day, y’know it’ll be mine that crashes out of the sky in a mangled, flaming mess. I think about all those times you see reports of plane crashes on the news and the accompanying footage of the passengers’ belongings scattered among the debris – shoes and clothes that’ll never be worn and books for the beach that’ll never be read (something that both breaks my heart and terrifies me in equal measure). Man, those images haunt me.
The day before is when the anxiety becomes physical. I get terrible stomach pains, I struggle to sleep and become withdrawn from everything and everyone and there’s simply no talking me round. And when I’m actually on the plane – when it’s charging down the runway – I clench my eyes shut and crush the bones in my husband’s hand. Oh and the fun doesn’t stop once we’re cruising; I’m on edge until the minute those wheels touch down, flinching at every bit of turbulence and holding my breath every time the plane banks left or right. I can’t stand the fact that I’m essentially trapped and have absolutely no control over what’s happening, or could happen.
I’m a mess (and a total pain in the ass, according to everyone who’s ever seen me at 35,000 feet!). But I’m getting better – slowly. So here are some tips for flying (almost!) without fear.
1. Understand the Science
If you’re an anxious flyer you’ll be over familiar with phrases like, “You’re far more likely to drown in your own bath than be in a plane crash!” or, “There are thousands of flights every day and they all land safely!” Yeah, statistics do absolutely nada when it comes to easing my fear of flying. However unlikely, the fact is that planes do crash – and that’s enough for me to break out in a sweat when I walk through that cabin door. But, understanding the science behind it all actually does help. Turbulence is what disturbs me the most when I’m up there. For some reason we assume because we’re floating on air the journey is going to be 100% smooth – like a marble over silk – and when it’s not, we panic. The truth is, no journey is ever like that; when you’re in a car you hit bumps in the road and when you’re on a boat it rises and falls with the waves. Airplanes are no different. Someone once eased my fear of turbulence completely by explaining that hitting those pockets of air is just like waves lapping against the hull of a boat. Reading up on how a plane works and what all those strange noises and changes in movement mean really helps.
2. Fly Often
Yeah, yeah I know. You hate flying, why would you want to put yourself through it more frequently than necessary, right? Well personally, I find that my fear is far, far worse when I haven’t flown in a while. A year in between holidays is enough for me to completely forget what it feels like to be up at 32,000 feet and so everything feels unnatural, unfamiliar and frightening all over again the next time I fly. I find the more I fly in a year, the more familiar the process gets. Facing fears is how you get over them after all. Of course there’s a slight problem to this one, it gets expensive flying around the world!
3. Do what you can to relax
Despite the above, I know whenever I get on a plane there’ll always be that voice telling me that something bad could and probably will happen. So I do whatever I can to silence it. I do whatever I need to do to make the flight as relaxing as possible for me. For example, I always opt for an aisle seat because it makes me feel a little less trapped – I know I can easily unbuckle and get up for a walk if I need to. I’ve also got a Spotify playlist of music that I know helps me relax and y’know, takes my mind off the 32,000 feet of thin air below my feet. Gulp.
If anyone’s got their own fear-busting tips, I’d love to hear them! 🙂