If just the thought of being 30,000 feet above the ground is enough to send your head spinning and make your heart race, we same same. Traveling by plane makes me want to jump out of my skin and run a thousand marathons simultaneously.
This wouldn’t be a problem if seeing the world wasn’t on my to-do list, but it is, so here we are. Now, what am I going to do about it?
Enter Plan B (Plan A being an anxious ball of wound tight nerves from the second my suitcase leaves my bedroom until the moment it returns back to its place in my bedroom).
This is my Plan B, feel free to take bits to help make your own Plan B.
But first, mindset.
I wasted a lot of time trying to conquer my fear instead of searching for ways to manage it. Flip the script in your head and ask yourself how can I manage this? instead of focusing all your energy on getting through it.
Changing your perspective (and giving yourself grace) will help you recognize what’s fueling your anxiety and what would ease it.
Here’s what didn’t work for me.
- Pretending I wasn’t getting on an airplane and waiting until the very last minute to pack. This did nothing but amp up my nerves because all of a sudden everything was happening all at once the night before my early a.m. flight.
- Essential oils. A coworker gave me her essential oils and a breath exercise to help put me in a calming space. I couldn’t manage to get outside of my own head long enough to grab the oils or want to do the breath exercise in the middle of the airport.
- Having the flight and my anxiety associated with the flight a topic for (what felt like) constant conversation isn’t helpful. If I don’t bring it up, please don’t talk about it.
- Focusing on one step (task) at a time. I start to panic about two weeks out, and when it happened I told myself “NO, focus on packing,” and then after I’m done packing I’ll focus on the car ride to the airport, then getting through TSA, etc. So far it’s worked.
- Beyoncé Homecoming playlist for takeoff and any other moment in between when I need reminding I’m a strong woman.
- New mantra: “I’m a badass” to say on repeat while the plane is climbing for cruising altitude (or as needed).
- Reality checking my anxiety (therapy gem) by reminding myself “stressing out is habit, so my brain is just following protocol and doing what I’ve trained it to do.” Also, my fear about flying is about crashing, so relating checking also means telling myself the safety FACTS about air travel.
- Listening to my Plane Anxiety meditation on Headspace. I did this last time I had to fly and it was HELPFUL. It teaches you how to ground yourself which came in extremely helpful during turbulence.
Reality Checking Info:
Americans have a 1 in 114 chance of dying in a car crash, according to the National Safety Council. The odds of dying in air and space transport incidents, which include private flights and air taxis, are 1 in 9,821. That’s almost three times better chances than you meeting your fate by choking on food.
You’re more likely to be struck by lightning with a one in 13,000 chance.
Aircraft go through a massive amount of testing before they even get off the ground, and there’s still plenty more after that. You can watch some of the most extreme tests in the video above from the Business Insider YouTube channel.
If there’s one thing you take away from these facts, make it this: turbulence isn’t a safety concern. Turbulence is, as commercial pilot Patrick Smith explains, a nuisance, but not a huge danger to you or the plane:
For all intents and purposes, a plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin, or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket. Conditions might be annoying and uncomfortable, but the plane is not going to crash. Turbulence is an aggravating nuisance for everybody, including the crew, but it’s also, for lack of a better term, normal. From a pilot’s perspective it is ordinarily seen as a convenience issue, not a safety issue.
And most importantly, never forget you’re not perfect because nobody is and chances are your anxiety will get the best of you, again. But with practice, you’ll get better at managing it.
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