I hate flying. It makes me cry, shake, sweat and panic. I hate being surrounded by people in a small space, hearing the safety precautions and the overall clinical smells and aesthetics of an aircraft.
It’s not strictly the being in the air that I don’t like, it’s more claustrophobia and knowing that I have to stay on that plane for x amount of time. I’m not great with sitting still in general so most flights leave me with a lot of time in which I lack concentration and have nothing but my own thoughts to make me panic even more.
However, all that being said I’m determined to not let my fear stop me from doing things I want to do and I’ve been on two trips abroad per year for the last couple of years. I couldn’t brave long haul yet; the longest flight I’ve done was about 5 hours from Morocco but I am aiming to get through the panic.
What makes it difficult is that there’s not really a pattern to the anxiety. Sometimes I’m fine right up until the boarding gate, sometimes I panic a few days before the flight, sometimes I’m up in the air and I think “ok, I’m okay and can do this’ and sometimes I’m a shaky wreck the whole time.
But I’m learning slowly how to manage it and I’ve found that these things can help me to relax so I thought I’d share in case you’re also a nervous flyer.
1 Listen to music
I realise that blocking it out probably isn’t a cure but I noticed previously that every time I heard an announcement, even a routine one, it sparked a little panic; ‘there may be some turbulence’, ‘we’ll be landing 10 minutes later than planned’ etc. So during the last 2 flights I went on I listened to one of my favourite chilled albums so I could go into my own little zone. (It was an old Sia album if you’re wondering!)
2 Don’t look at the clock
40 minutes left, 30 minutes left… Don’t do it! It makes the time seem to go so slowly and has sparked panic attacks for me in the past. Once, I had mentally prepared myself for the remaining 10 minutes and due to the weather there were some delays and we ended up having to land at a different airport. This obviously took longer than 10 minutes so completely threw me off! Try and be okay in the moment and then when you do land it’ll be a nice little surprise.
3 Keep busy
When I’m panicky I find it really hard to concentrate on anything but it’s still worth a try. Even chatting can help distract me from thinking and increasing my fear. Draw, write, read, play games (20 questions is my personal fave!).
This leads on from the previous point but I do find origami helps! I learnt how to make a dragon and a crane in the lead up to my last trip. Once you know how to make something it doesn’t take too much concentration but still keeps you busy. The bonus is you end up with lots of little pretty paper dragons!
5 Breathe and count
I read that to help with panic attacks you should breathe in for four counts, hold your breath for seven and breathe out for eight. The slow breathing helps to combat the physical symptoms (dizziness, sweating, shaking) and the counting gives you something to focus on, giving you time to calm down.
6 Build up gradually
I had a list of places I wanted to visit and started with the shortest flights. If you’re in the UK, Amsterdam and Brussels both took about 45 minutes! At the moment my limit is probably about two hours but I do want to tackle long haul one day.
7 Stock up on Vitamin C and limit the caffeine
When you’re anxious you use up more energy preparing for ‘fight or flight’. During these stressful times your body quickly uses up your supply of Vitamin C. Have you ever felt run down, tired or ill after a panic attack? Your immune system will need extra Vitamin C to make up for what was lost. I try and have an orange or some strawberries after or before a flight to ward off illness.
Having too much caffeine will make it harder for you to relax and remain calm so try and wait until after you land to grab a coffee. If you can, limit caffeine for the few days leading up to it as well.
Let me know if you found any of these tips helpful or if you have any new ones to add.
What works for you?
Do you enjoy flying?