Handling Anxiety: Flying

So, as many of you that follow me on twitter will know, I went to Barcelona last week (I love how I can say that so casually).

I hadn’t been on a plane since I was 6 years old so going away to Barcelona was quite a big deal for me. I think, because I wanted to do it so much, I didn’t feel like I had any excuse to be nervous or let my nerves get the better of me.

I am one of them people that only get anxious because something has triggered it but sadly even small things seem to trigger me. As I have had 6 anxiety reduced months prior to this trip, I feel as though I had the perfect opportunity to put the coping mechanisms that I had discovered to good use. This helped me SO much and I would like to share with you what I did to stop myself getting all flustered.

Think “I am getting on the plane now?” and if the answer is no, don’t think about. That sounds so easy and it is! If you are like me and watch friends religiously then you will remember when Chandler got married. He was freaking out and Ross would keep saying “well, don’t think about it… Break the day up into stages.” Firstly, Chandler would just be getting in the car to go to the hotel. Secondly, he will be putting his bags into his room and so on. Think of the airport experience in stages. It is such a dragged-out day that you have enough time to do so. I would think “let’s get in the car and drive to the airport. Now let’s get my bags out the car and walk to my terminal. Then Security. Then sit down and get a drink.” I would only think about flying when the plane starts to move. Is getting in a car scary? No. Is putting your liquids in a tray scary? No. Is sitting on your bum eating an overpriced chocolate bar scary? No.

Secondly, have everything with you that you think you will need accessible. I don’t mean just in your carry on, I mean in the front pocket or even in your hand when you board the plane. There is no way that you will be able to stand in the middle of the isle on the plane opening up your luggage to find your kindle or your iPod which is packed at the bottom of your suitcase. If you only just realise this when on the plane, you will start to freak out that you may not be able to get your headphones out so you won’t be able to have your Calm app playing when you take off. Just pop everything in a front pocket or something so you can grab them when you are in the queue on the steps when boarding the plane.

Another tip that I found useful is if you get a little nervous before a flight, try and book a weird time to take off. If you think about it, most people will want to fly out on a Friday afternoon after work so that they can have a nice weekend away so maybe avoid them flights if you don’t fancy long queues and busyness. I flew at 7pm on a Sunday which made no sense but it was cheap and really quiet and everywhere was so calm when we landed as well because it was dark.

When it came to taking off, I thought I would have loved to watch it out of the window so I quickly took the window seat. For some really weird reason, I cannot look out of a window when flying and I think it was just because I wasn’t used to it. It was the realisation that I had actually managed to get on a plane and that we were taking off into the sky. If you feel like this may be an issue, then maybe try the end or middle seat first and look out of the window every now and again and see if you like being able to see above the clouds. Some people adore it and some people say that they can’t fly unless they are in the window seat so it is different for all.

Taking off tips: I found taking off much better when I had my eyes closed. Because you are obviously going up in the air, your ears pop but you also get a really weird light headed feeling when you initially start flying and it’s much better when your eyes are closed. I found it a lot better as well when I was chewing gum because the chewing and swallowing pooped my ears so that they didn’t get sore. I think it would have also been better if I had headphones in so I couldn’t hear the roar of the engine. The suspense could kill you when you are waiting for the engine to reach enough power to shoot us in the air. If you fancy listening to something that can calm your anxiety a little bit, I recommend some apps that you can download onto your phone or iPod and I have written a blog post all about them here. Or, if you are travelling with someone, just talk to them. Sometimes talking is a much better distraction as you have to think about what you and the other person are saying.

Also, bring food with you. If you are a fussy eater, then it’s nice to know that you have a snack that you will like. Obviously, it has to be a solid food as your liquids will have to be in your clear plastic bag that all of your liquids are in. I didn’t end up eating but as soon as I got off the plane, I ate the mini buffet I brought on with me. But, it was nice to know that if I was hungry, I had something with me.

Landing was 100% fine. I was so lucky that the pilot’s I had were both amazing at their job. My Dad, who you could say is quite well travelled, said that both of the landings were the smoothest landings he had ever witnessed. Yes, you do feel it but it’s just like your friends joke-elbowing you when you say something sarcastic. Plus, as soon as you touch the floor, you know it’s all done and you feel all happy and relaxed again (or hungry if you are like me and think of food 24/7 except when you’re anxious). Landing was like a 20-minute thing so you didn’t feel the head rush anywhere near as bad as take-off. I found that if you had a sip of water every few minutes then your ears will pop enough for you to not get much discomfort. Or, my Dad had some Chocolate Eclair’s with him that he chewed to help.

When it came to the actual flights, both of mine were quite smooth – much smoother than if you were on a train. I understand that it can be a lot worse but we had 180mph head winds on the flight home apparently and you could only feel then when coming into land because they would put pressure on the wings. Personally, I just think the easyJet pilots that we had were just amazing and knew exactly how to fly a plane in awkward conditions.

Moral of my story – if it’s been a while since you last flew and it’s kind of stopping you from going away, still go as there are ways around being a little anxious. If I know these little tips from 2 2hour flights then you can too.

If you have any other tips then please tell me because I am still less than experienced with flying and would love to keep going places.

The rest of the “Handling Anxiety” posts:

Handling Anxiety: Apps

Handling Anxiety: Staying Positive


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