You’re not nervous, you’re excited.
“Oh my God, we are all going to die!” I looked around, and everyone was calm, too calm for me. I was hyperventilating. My legs wanted to cry.
The plane took off.
Every sound was the sound of “engine falling apart”, every little twitch was “us falling”.
“God, if you get me through this flight I promise never to throw cigarette butts on the floor again, I will never ghost a guy again and I won’t call in sick when I’m actually hungover.”
We landed safely, but from that day every flight has been a nightmare.
A week before any trip, my body would start to panic.
One day I have had enough of this bullshit. I wasn’t going to avoid traveling because I have this irrational fear.
Why Are We Afraid Of Flying?
The idea of us up in the air is so un-natural. We’re not supposed to be up there, we don’t have wings for f*cksake.
Your body works against you. At every bump, it releases stress hormones, causing you to get into attention mode. Attention mode makes you aware that you are confined in the air with no route of escape, this creates another stress hormone release, which then affects your cognitive ability.
In other words, as the stress hormones build-up, you begin to lose the sense of reality, and you go down into the black hole and right into your panic attack. Yes, we are our own worst enemy.
What Are We Afraid Of?
To combat the fear of flying, you need to understand the source of it. Some are afraid of the lack of control, I mean we put our life into the hands of people we don’t know. It’s nerve-racking.
For others, it’s the claustrophobia, fear of death, and sometimes it can be a traumatic flight from the past. In my case, the panic started because I was on a plane I didn’t want to be on. So to lose it, I had to assign flying to good things. Here’s a couple of things I’ve done:
Before Your Flight
1. Knowledge is Power
There are plenty of books, e-books, posts, videos and podcasts on the subject. The more you know about flying, the more you can repeat the facts to yourself when you feel a panic attack coming in-flight.
Seriously, flying is the safest form of transportation. I know you know this, but research into it.
A good exercise before a flight is to position yourself somewhere where you feel safe and comfortable and put this video on. Try to get your mind to associate the sound of a plane with a cozy feeling.
2. Watch Pilot and Flight Attendant Vlogs
Pilots and flight attendants are flying for a living and it’s good to get to know their lifestyle. Once you get to know these people that fly every day, and still live to tell about it, your mind will feel at ease. A great video that helped me through my anxiety was this pilot explaining why you shouldn’t fear flying. I imagine he’s my pilot on every flight and I feel better.
3. Fall Asleep to Take-Off, Landing and Turbulence Videos
Stay with me, I’m not trying to make you fear flying more.
Take-off was the worst part of flying for me. The anticipation, the acceleration and finally — leaving the safety of land.
Before every flight, find the take-off video showing your departing airport and a landing video to your landing airport.
Even better if there’s a cockpit (hehe) view because you can see just how calm and collected the pilots really are. This video of a flight in turbulence made me see that the pilots are not worried about at it at all — so why the hell am I so scared?
After you can go through the videos without crying, play them before bed. Get used to all the sounds of things that scare you and train your mind to simply not care.
During Your Flight
4. Download Apps
I have a free version of Sky Guru. It works better online, but it’s alright offline too. Look up the route for your flight. They send you cute messages about the safety of flying as well as some facts on our sensations during flight.
Download a meditation app.
It will help you learn to control your breathing, which will result in a calmer mind.
And finally, get Spotify and make yourself a calming playlist you can listen to on airplane mode.
5. Practice Breathing Techniques
When the anxiety kicks in, remember to four-four-four.
Breathe in for four seconds, hold four seconds, breathe out for four seconds.
Acknowledge that you have anxiety, don’t fight it. Say to yourself: “Ok, it’s here, but I’m ready for it”. Ride the wave with the four-four-four rule.
6. Distract Yourself
This is something everyone will recommend, but it can only work if you’ve done your homework before a flight. Planes have TV’s, you have a phone, buy sudoku.
Chewing on something is a good trick to make you feel comfortable, so get some snacks before a flight or just chew on a piece of gum.
I like to look at other passengers and guess what their names are, what their life story is, I mean anything goes. Now is the time to binge on whatever show you want without the guilt.
After Your Flight
7. Fly More
This is probably the best method if you can afford it. Just fly more, fly wherever and whenever you can. Buy cheap local flights for the weekend. The next time you go somewhere, get a cheaper flight with more layovers so you can take-off and land more times.
With time, the fear will turn into excitement.
Bonus: The Air Is Jello
A psychologist once told me that we fear air because we can’t see it. We see the road and the water, but up there, we just see how high up we are. He said to picture a plane as a toy in a bowl of jello. The plane can still move, but it will not just fall through. This image has helped me through some stressful flights, and hopefully, it helps you too.