So guys, I’ve done it. Got me on a plane, for the first time in over ten years. It wasn’t easy and it’s still not something I’d ever look forward to, but being able to do it at all is a huge step in the right direction. Not being able to fly really closes up your life to a whole load of possibilities . It took such a long time for me to even consider going on a flight and now having done it, I would like to help others get to that point.There was some things that I found really helped me in the entire process from booking flights to getting myself on the plane right up until landing. If you’re afraid of flying and want to hear them, keep reading!
1. Give it time.
Sometimes you have to just give it time. For years my friends would ask about going on holidays and there was no way in hell I was going. I didn’t even entertain the thought. The more time goes by and the more family and friend holidays you miss though, the more you’ll actually want to overcome the fear. I didn’t want to overcome it before. As my desire to travel and see the world grew, there was less room to be afraid. That’s what happens – the fear of missing out will eventually overcome your fear of flying and you’ll actually want to do it. Once that happens, the whole process will become easier.
2. Do a flight course.
I had the absolute pleasure of trying out Michael Comyn’s “Fly Fearless” course, and it was a huge factor in getting off the ground again. The course aims to assist help people reduce their fear and to gain insight into aviation information. It also teaches some techniques that have been demonstrated to help manage or reduce anxiety specifically related to air travel. The day was so informative and afterwards, you can finally put logic to so many of those irrational fears. You know all those “what if the wings fall off” kind of questions you have? These are the guys to answer those questions, and they welcome them. The more you know about how a plane is built to fly, the less you’ll need to worry about it. I guarantee by the end of the day, you’ll be ever so slightly excited at the thoughts of flying again!
If you want to hear more about my experience on this course you can read my can you cure your fear of flying in a day post where I went in depth into my experience. If you’re interested in doing it, check out the site at flyfearless.ie.
3. Have someone else book the flight
If you’re like me, any mention or reminder of flying gets your anxiety going. Hearing about a plane on the radio, in a movie, and even seeing one leave a trail across the sky is a trigger. Trying to book flights immediatly gets my heart racing and I start feeling claustrophobic and trapped. It’s not long before I “x” out of the browser. You feel that way too? A simple way to get around this until you’re more comfortable with flying – Get someone else to book the flights. Why start the worry off months before the flight if you don’t have to? Eoghan dealt with booking the flights and checking in. Not having to give a thought to it was such a relief. I didn’t even have to think of the flight until the airport.
4. Stay distracted in the Airport
The airport can be another huge trigger. It is for me anyway, everything from the sound of suitcases wheeling across the tiles to the strong smell of coffee. Everything about it makes me feel at unease. Sitting in the airport with nothing to do, focusing on the endless spiral of scary scenarios going through your head is only going to get you all hyped up for your flight, and not in a good way. I used to go to the airport and sit at the gate for hours trembling and letting my mind go over and over what I was about to do. I wouldn’t go eat or go have a look at duty free, I’d just sit and think while my anxiety built up like a pan about to boil over. By the time I was on the plane my stress levels would be so high I would experience what can only be described as absolute terror – for the entirety of the flight. Not fun right?!
On my recent flight I took a different path. Forcing myself to go into the shops was a good distraction. Try it! You mightn’t have a care in the world what’s on offer, but just have a look. Try to point out things you know your friends and family would like. I know it is the last thing you probably want to do but it is a great distraction. Turn it into a game. Or purposely don’t bring a few items so you have to go find them and buy them before the flight – skincare and toiletries are perfect for this. Before you know it, it’s time to board, and you didn’t have time to sit and think about first. It really will make all the difference.
5. Go with someone you feel comfortable with.
You want to be as relaxed as it is possible to be for your first few flights. No point going with someone who stresses you out. Do you and your ma constantly bicker? Leave her at home (sorry ma!). Do you and your friends constantly worry while you’re together? They’re out too. Whoever it is that you feel calm and comfortable with, go with them. Preferably someone who’s not afraid to take the lead and someone with copious amounts of patience – you know they’ll need it! Sometimes you don’t realise how tension or stress can be increased depending on who you’re with. So for that first flight, pick someone good!
6. Speak to your doctor.
If your fear is reallyyyy extreme, talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking medication to help you through the flight. So many people have warned me against this. Easy for them to say, they don’t spend a month dreading a flight and a week afterwards recovering from the stress! I don’t see the issue with it, if it makes the experience easier and your doctor can talk you through the options, and recommend what is best for you.
Sometimes, having it on you as a back up in case you really need it can be a comfort. You might never take it, but having it there could be the thing that gets you on that plane. On my recent flight to Edinburgh, I had xanax with me. I didn’t take it until I got on the plane. Just before take off I kept thinking “I have to get off this plane”. As they closed the doors I could feel that familiar panic pumping through my body and I was full on prepared to stand up and demand to get off. Just before I lost all logical thought, I took half the xanax calmed me right down – was it the placebo effect? Probably! But who cares, if it helps, that is all that matters!
7. Noise Cancellation Headphones
No one likes that dull hum of the air going through the engines right? What I hate is the changes of noises through out the flight. Like when 15-20 minutes in the engines go so quiet you panic that they may have stopped working and wait to feel the plane losing height – by the way this is just the plane reducing thrust as it reaches highest altitude!
These noises are enough to send you into panic mode. The easiest way around this is to simply not listen. Investing in some good noise cancellation headphones is going to eliminate a lot of that noise. Did you know low frequency sounds are proven to increase anxiety? Noise cancellation headphones are going to be your friends! I find it really hard to listen to music or a movie during a flight because I like to be able to hear whats happening around me. If you’re the same, wearing the headphones with the noise cancellation mode on still helps to remove some of that plane noise.
8. Flight distractions.
Similarly to Tip 4, find some way to keep your mind busy while you are in flight. For me, doing my makeup helps. A short task that takes most of my concentration. In the fly fearless course we were actually told the best way to distract yourself is do short tasks, then move on to something else. This way, your mind cant get bored and go back to worrying. Luckily my flight was so short, doing my makeup took the entire thing. But set out some things you can do on your flight. Save your favourite podcast that you’ve been looking forward to, for your flight. Pick something juicy, that you’ll want to be clinging on to every detail. Have a list of a couple of other things you can do. An idle mind is your enemy!
9. Accept that you’re not going to feel great.
You know it, and I know it. It’s not going to be easy, and that’s ok. Knowing you’re going to be afraid and accepting it means if and when you start to freak out, you’re prepared. You can tell yourself “thats’ ok it’s just my anxiety”. Have some helpful mantras to repeat to yourself and remember why you got on the plane in the first place. You’re on the way to have the time of your life, take that flight anxiety!
10. You’ll hate me for this – DO IT OFTEN
I know, I know this sounds like hell right!? I agree right now. But seriously, the more you do something, the more normal it becomes. Remember your first day of a job? Petrified right? A few months in and it’s the most normal thing in the world. Same goes for flying. You need to normalize the entire process. Exposure therapy, it’s a thing!
I really really hope these tips help some of you. My grandma used to have such a hard time with me not wanting to fly. She’d say to me every time she saw me “it’s great to be young” and tell me about how she used to travel all around the world when she was young. She looks back on those memories so fondly. So what the hell are we doing, letting our fear stop of from experiencing life?! Push yourself to do it and you might surprise yourself. Maybe you’re not half as afraid as you think you are. I have full faith in you!
If you have any helpful tips, please share them in the comments. Firstly, I welcome any tips to help me but also, sharing them could help others. What’s your absolute best tip to ease your fear of flying??