I’m not sure when or where I developed my fear of flying, but it kept me from traveling. It gets so bad sometimes that it gives me anxiety. But I love exploring new places and cultures and I want to travel the world so I need to deal with it. I think it started when my parents got divorced and we stopped traveling.
A few years after their divorce I made plans to visit friends in New York. But the morning of my flight I was so nervous I couldn’t get on the plane. Although, watching Castaway the night before probably didn’t help. I think I was nervous about traveling alone and worried about navigating the airport and not getting lost. Registering me as an unaccompanied minor was never an option, or at least my parents never suggested it. My biggest fear of flying now is what if my anxiety gets so bad or what if I’m not feeling good and I’m stuck on a plane.
My brother suggested I talk to my doctor and tell him how my fear of flying is so debilitating that it prevents me from traveling. He said my doctor would likely prescribe me Valium but that doesn’t really solve my problem. I hate feeling out of it so I definitely don’t want to feel that way on a plane. I also don’t really like taking pills so I don’t know how I’d feel after taking Valium (no colonial women on the wing of the plane for me). So I learned to deal with my flight anxiety and fear of flying naturally.
How to Deal With your Fear of Flying
Travel with someone
My anxiety isn’t nearly as bad when I travel with someone. Traveling with my boyfriend really helps me because I talk to him about how I’m feeling and it’s really just a comfort to have him there with me.
Choose your seat
I like sitting in the aisle seats because I feel less nervous for some reason. It’s nice to get up as I please without having to step over anyone and I like being able to extend my legs into the aisle a bit. I don’t get claustrophobic, but it helps to feel like I’m not trapped in by sitting in the aisle seat. Sometimes I like sitting in a window seat to look out the window and because it’s easier to sleep against the side of the plane. With most airlines you select your seats when you purchase your tickets. But some airlines, like Southwest, are first come first serve and you pick your seat based on your boarding order, so you either want to check as soon as you can (24 hours prior to boarding) or upgrade your ticket to board in an earlier group.
No matter what time my flight is, I try to sleep on the plane. I’m sure the Valium my brother suggested I take would help with that but I don’t want to go that route. If my flight is very early in the morning, I try to sleep less the night before so I can sleep on the plane. But I also like taking red-eye flights because they’re more relaxing and it’s easier to sleep. The plane is dark and it’s very quiet and calming. I bought this travel pillow so that I can actually sleep and not wake up with a sore neck. It works great except that Jeff keeps stealing it from me.
Talk to the flight attendants
It can be helpful to let the flight attendants know you get nervous flying or you’re feeling a little anxious. They might be able check in on you a little more throughout the flight to make sure you’re comfortable.
Keeping my brain occupied is a great way to take my mind off my anxiety as well as pass the time on the plane. I’m actually writing and working on this post as I’m on a plane. It’s a great way to distract yourself and pass time.
Listen to music
Another great idea is to listen to music. I like having several different playlists for whatever mood I’m in. Sometimes I opt for a more relaxing playlist, especially if I’m taking a red-eye flight. But other times I’m in the mood to rock out.
Have a drink
A lot of people probably disagree with this because drinking dehydrates you and it’s important to stay hydrated, especially while flying. It’s a really bad idea to land in a foreign city or country totally wasted (you make yourself a target for getting robbed). But I do like to have a drink before boarding or at the beginning of the flight. It helps take the edge off and it usually helps me fall asleep. Ever heard of liquid courage? Yup, it totally helps my nerves.
Many airlines have personal TV’s at each seat which is a really great way to entertain and distract yourself. Virgin America and Delta have a great selection of channels and shows available for you to watch (I’m sure other airlines do as well but I have only traveled on these recently)! Southwest also has an app (Onboard Player) that you download and use to watch live tv or TV shows. Jeff and I bought an iLuv splitter so we can watch together on my iPad.
NOTE: If you decide to use the Onboard Player app when flying Southwest, make sure you download the app before you go to the airport. I couldn’t download the app at the airport or on the plane, even after paying for the WiFi.
I also like to bring puzzle books (crosswords, sudoku, etc.) for entertainment but I usually give up when I can’t figure out the crossword clues. I love reading (check out my Reading Lately linkups for recommendations), especially when I’m flying because there is a lot of time to kill. It’s the perfect time to catch up on my reading! I prefer to take a Kindle or iPad on the plane because I can take multiple books and games without taking up a ton of carry on space.
Accept your anxiety
I find it really helpful to acknowledge my anxiety and fears. I mentally talk myself through them by reminding myself that I’m nervous and that everything is going to be okay. Accepting that I have a fear of flying rather than pretending it’s not there helps me relax.
Nothing stresses me out more than rushing around last minute trying to make sure we aren’t forgetting anything. I know that we can buy and replace almost anything we forget, but I think that’s just a hassle. And I don’t want to spend the money if I don’t have to. I end up stressed out because I’m the one rushing around doing the packing for the both of us. Stressing out increases my anxiety because I work myself up and worry about forgetting stuff. Creating a packing list helps make sure we don’t forget anything.
Sometimes you just need to face your fears. The more you expose yourself to it, hopefully flying becomes a more normal experience. Try planning some trips to places you really want to go and keep them in mind when you start to feel anxious. For example, I wasn’t nervous about our trip to Alaska because we planned so many fun activities and adventures that I looked forward to it.
Do you struggle with flight anxiety? What are some ways you deal with your fear of flying?