It’s painful for me to admit this, but some time in the last four years I developed mild flight anxiety. I have an overactive brain that tends to visualize everything that could go wrong (although, scientifically, the things I imagine probably can’t go wrong). I’m not going to go into it because I know that I’m being dramatic and I don’t want to put my false mental images of doom into your head, too.
But, you know, just let it be known that I have flight anxiety.
Here’s where I imagine all this anxiety stems from… In 2010 I totaled my car on some black ice and it took me 2 years to get comfortable behind the wheel again. In 2012 I flew to India and we hit turbulence that dropped the plane and nearly shook me from my seat. Traumatic events tend to shake me to my core and send my imaginative brain into overdrive.
Two weeks ago K and I flew to San Antonio for a business trip. (Details about our trip are happening next week hopefully.) I have flown a few times since India, but the anxiety gets worse with each trip. I was seriously dreading these flights.
The self-talk that happened in my head during our time in the air was unreal. I channeled Chelsea and repeated to myself, “You can do hard things.” I prayed like a mad person. I turned my ear buds all the way up and tried desperately to lose myself in books. Every once in a while I panic-grasped K’s hand or thigh.
When the smallest hint of turbulence rocked the plane I told myself that the flight attendants were still standing and smiling and passing out drinks- it’d all be ok.
Before our last flight home I looked up the dangers of turbulence on my phone. (I knew this was a risk… sometimes ignorance really is bliss.) Turns out, turbulence is very rarely the cause of air troubles. It’s totally normal and does not bring planes down. That little bit of knowledge helped immensely on the last flight. (All our flights were smooth- my brain had the turbulent issues.)
Of course, when I really boil it down, what the hell am I going to do if something were to happen on a plane? Like, really. What exactly are my options? I
jokingly told K that if something goes wrong and we’re taking a nose dive to the ground, please punch me and knock me out. Neither one of us can figure out if I’m kidding about that still…
But back to the point… I survived our flights and, though I was mentally exhausted, I found ways to cope with the stress I was feeling and walk away confident and happy (to be on the ground ).
So how about some mediocre advice from an inexperienced* flyer…
- Create a playlist and bring a book that will grab & keep your interest. Dave Matthews Band calms me down when driving in stressful situations so I loaded up my Amazon Prime playlist with some DMB for the flight.
- Watch a movie.
- Watch the flight attendants. Chances are they’re laughing and smiling and jovial, even when buckled up and bouncing along in the turbulence. Be friendly with them, too. They’re your biggest allies in the air, especially on longer flights.
- Repeat to yourself, ‘I am brave. I am OK. I can do hard things.’ (You’d be surprised how effective this is. )
- If praying is your thing have a laid back, honest conversation with God.
- Research flight and turbulence. First I read this article, then I found this site: http://www.fearofflying.com/ . It actually has a ‘program’ to cure those with flight anxiety. I’d be lying if I said I’m not looking into it…
- Some people drink alcohol or take relaxers. If that works for you, cool. I’m pretty sure I’d have just started crying uncontrollably if I’d been drinking. I needed my brain to be clear and strong for the trip.
It sounds backward- and maybe this just helps me- but looking out the window helped me relax. The beauty and the stillness of the sky/clouds/ground below was helpful.
(* truthfully, I’ve been flying my entire life… I started when I was a toddler and I’ve been around the world… so, you know, I’m kind of experienced… just inexperienced with this newfound anxiety)
It’s weird… I’m not afraid of heights. I’m not afraid of death. I’m not afraid of travel. I just hated the feeling of the plane dropping out from beneath me like it did on the India trip.
It’s funny, but I suddenly understand Lylee’s irrational fear of thunderstorms.
So let’s open the floor for outside advice 🙂 Do you get shaky on flights? How do you entertain yourself on a plane?