I see this face all the time… it’s different on everybody; sometimes it’s a raised eyebrow, sometimes it’s eyes-popped open, sometimes it’s the skeptical squint, but it always means the same thing: “are you serious?”. Yeah. Of course I’m serious. I get nervous about flying, and sometimes afraid too – but then again, who doesn’t? Let’s face it, there’s something a little unnatural about cruising 35,000 feet in the air around 500mph, while sitting perfectly still in a seat. And who doesn’t jump a little when the turbulence gets bad (that part is more natural). Over the years I’ve ebbed and flowed from being panic-stricken when they shut the door, to calm and collected, and everywhere in between, yet still, when I admit to dreading boarding a plane now and again I’m met with the same response from those who know me – that “are you serious” look of judgement.
The fact of the matter is, just because something makes me nervous, like flying, doesn’t mean I’m not going to do it… it just means I need to find out how to do it anyway! Same thing goes for traveling… just because you’re nervous about traveling or about going to a place you’ve never been before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. At a certain point, we have to place our fears aside and just go for it.
That being said… there are some tips and tricks we can lend you to help you get over those travel speed-bumps. Here are a few of the ways I put my mind at ease when it’s running wild!
- Meditate I’m sure you’ve heard this before. I’m sure tons of you have tried this before and it “didn’t work for you”. That’s fine. If meditation is not a practice you have patience for in your daily life, you can still use it to get through a challenging moment – like that turbulence. Something as simple as talking to yourself, (“I’m alright”, “this anxiety/disturbance won’t last forever”, “I can be strong although I’m afraid”, “it’s okay to be scared, but know I’ll be okay”), is actually a form a meditation and can help you quite a bit. If that’s still too much, try a meditation app. There are plenty out there, so browse and see what works for you, but my recommendation is Buddhify. Their meditations are sorted by how you’re feeling and what you’re doing. When I’m feeling overwhelmed I usually pick one in the “feeling stressed” or “difficult emotions” section. Try a few out beforehand and see what works for you. This way you don’t find yourself trying to learn how to use them when you’re already stressed!
- Breathe There’s nothing more annoying than someone telling you “breathe” when you’re stressing or dealing with anxiety, yet here I am, telling you to do just that. Hah. So let me explain before I get grouped in with the apathetic! There is plenty of research detailing how our breathing can affect our moods, and the more we can stay in tune with it, the better off we can find ourselves in situations of duress. Finding a breathing method that works for you is a lot like finding a meditation that works for you, no one can tell you what’s right or what works except you. For me, yoga breaths with a count of 4 in and out do the trick. I’d recommend practicing on your own before you fly, so you don’t have to think about it too much when you need it!
- Mantra So this kind of goes with the meditation theme, but for some people can be much easier to do. Pick a mantra (it could be a specific flight mantra, or a stress mantra) to repeat to yourself when you start to stress out. I really like “let go” for when my stress levels get too high. I time the “let” with my inhales, and the “go” with my exhales (something I learned from Buddhify) and it works wonders. The more I say and think “let go” the less of an opportunity my anxiety has to run rampant with my mind!
- Workout Working out is a great preparation for flying. You have the opportunity to get your muscles moving and your blood flowing before trapping yourself in a tiny upright seat for hours! It’s also a great way to expend extra energy, release some endorphins, and wind your mind down. All of these can help a nervous flier prepare. By the time you get in your seat you’ll be calmer, more relaxed, and ready to chill.
- Journal This may sound crazy, but I generally don’t use the entertainment systems on a flight. I bring a travel journal and write instead (the longest I’ve ever written on a flight was 9 hours)! Why? Because I’m much more invested in my writing than I am in entertainment. When I watch a movie on an airplane it feels like a distraction, and as soon as turbulence starts I’m easily taken out of that focus. When I’m writing I’m usually concentrating pretty hard on the things I’m writing about, and what’s going on in my head – then when a bump or two goes by, I hardly even notice. If writing isn’t for you find another activity that really captivates you to do on an airplane – it’s such a wonderful time to be productive!
- Look Out the Window Unless you’re afraid of heights, looking out the window can be pretty serene on a flight. It’s not very often you get the opportunity to see the world from a bird’s eye view, so why not take advantage. It’ll also give you some perspective! Keep in mind if you’re sitting by the wings: they’re made to wobble!
- Music Familiar music is another great way to put your mind at ease. Put together a pre-flying playlist that’s full of songs that make you feel calm and strong.