I love to travel but WOW can flight anxiety get the best of me. It’s pretty come and go because some flights are no big deal while other times I find myself extremely tense. (Flying over oceans is the worst!)
It’s frustrating because it’s wonderful to explore our planet but a majority of the time that means hopping on an airplane. Each time I board the plane, buckle my seat belt and wait for the game of tug-of-war to begin between wanderlust and my hyperactive nervous system. Bleh. Not fun at all.
Thankfully, I have found a few ways to gently turn down my flight anxiety. Maybe you will find them useful too?
1). I start by asking myself exactly what I am afraid of and I never lie to myself. 99% of the time my answer is I’m most afraid of a mechanical malfunction which causes the plane to free fall into the ocean where I do not die on impact but instead drown to death crammed in a metal tube along with the flailing bodies of other panicking passengers.
Terrifying, right? Totally a worst case scenario but I don’t shy away from it. Identifying what I’m most afraid is the first step to dealing with my fear.
Once I’ve fleshed out what I’m most afraid of I honor that fear. I think my brain for assessing the situation and sending me a distress warning. I then admit that yes, that is a possible future albeit one I have only an atom of a chance of ever seeing.
2). Statistics. I remind myself of the facts. The chance of me dying in a plane crash is about 1 in 11 million. Flying is much much safer than driving but I drive every day with 0 anxiety.
I imagine it kinda like the thousands of doors from the movie Monsters, Inc. Remember how each one led to a different place or different home? The difference here is each “door” leads to a possible future. Yes, that one Catastrophe Door is floating out there but it’s mixed in with more than 11 million Totally Fine doors. This is life. I have to accept that and deal with the doors.
(I’ve also found this comic about a real guy who survived a plane crash to be weirdly comforting.)
3). I try to talk to myself like I’m a kid. Can you imagine if a little girl was sitting next to me on a flight and after a bout of turbulence I screamed at her, ” OMG! THE PLANE IS GOING TO BLOW UP AND YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!!!”? That is exactly what I do in my own head for hours while up in the air. It makes no sense! I get much better results when instead I try to admire the bravery, courage, and adventurous spirit that led me to hop on an airplane in the first place.
I also like to daydream about the destination and focus on how wonderful of an experience I’m going to have there!
4). Be prepared. I’m a big fan of the “failure to prepare is preparing to fail” quote. I usually bring gum, music, and headphones. I’ve found that listening to music on take off and landing (most stressful times to me) boosts my mood and gives me confidence that everything will be okay.
On our flight to Dublin Air Canada offered Headspace (a meditation app) which I thought was super cool! The app even offered exercises geared especially for flight anxiety which saved my butt when we were 40,000 ft in the air and experiencing intense turbulence.
5). Lastly when all else fails and my imagination overwhelms my best efforts I simply surrender. I let go and trust I have the inner resources to cope with walking through a Catastrophe Door no matter what monster my brain generates behind it. Let’s be honest, I won’t survive a worst case scenario but I can trust that I will have the courage and strength to endure it.
If you ask me, there is a world outside of us and a world inside of us. The outside world may fall apart but I can always trust the world inside to have what I need.