When I was little, flying was no big deal. It wasn’t even a little deal. It was just something you did – napping across three seats, trailing after mum and dad at the airport, sitting on top of precariously balanced suitcases whilst waiting to board the plane…It was the everyday norm, as commonplace as walking to school. Now that I’m older, it’s a slightly bigger problem. Before 2013, I hadn’t flown on a plane in 11 years. With anxiety and overthinking holding me back, I used to turn down holiday after holiday, opportunity after opportunity – anything that involved me going anywhere that wasn’t in England. And if I’m honest, I’m not even sure what is was that frightened me so much. I’d never had a bad flight, never been through bad turbulence, never been traumatised in the airport – I’m not especially claustrophobic, or afraid of heights…but something about planes just terrified me. And as a nervous flier, you will hear a great many ‘comforts’ over the years, from the old favourite ‘you’re more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash’ from some overly-experienced jet setter, for whom an airplane cabin is a second home…to the less soothing ‘oh don’t worry about it, flying’s fine!…Mind you it is a bit scary to think about how that big old metal thing stays up in their air for so long isn’t it?’ from someone who might have just been put off flying for the rest of their lives. It’s an extremely common fear, and a completely valid one, and can be experienced by anyone of any age, profession or personality. Even the most confident and adventurous of souls can feel a little wobbly during a routine take off. And as someone who is currently feeling those wobbles big time on a slightly cramped and turbulent two and half hour flight to Prague, I thought I’d compile a little list of tips to help both you, (and me) hopefully feel a little bit calmer in the air. 1. Planning. By planning, I don’t necessarily mean ‘plan out every second of your trip, from the exact time you’ll mount the stairs to the cabin to the exact coordinates of your seat’, but more prepare some things to do whilst you’re in flight. If those moments before take off are your weakness, compose a playlist of super chilled out songs to shut your eyes to and drown everything out. If it’s take off itself that freaks you out, turn it into an adventure – whip your camera out and film it for friends back home. Take photos of the ground as you soar up, of all the little houses and motorways spiralling underneath you, and turn them into an art project for when you get back home. For long haul flights, bring that book you’ve been dying to start for ages, and make that your priority for the journey. Focus on it, and really let yourself get absorbed into it – letting everything else just rush past you until you land. Draft some emails, work on your finances, plan out your outfits for the holiday ahead…use the time you have to be as productive as possible, and make the most of the opportunity. 2. Social crutches. Usually, social crutches are to be avoided at all costs, and to be stowed away in favour of independent thought and DIY confidence…but on a plane? I think we can allow them just this once. Sit next to a person you can chat to, or who is happy to chat to the crew and other passengers whilst you take a back seat in silence. Someone who can distract you, or who won’t judge you for feeling nervous. You might not be able to use your phone on the flight, but that doesn’t stop you from having it around. Flick through old photos, re-organise your files, clear out your old messages, download a mobile-friendly film and lose yourself in it. Whatever helps you get through the everyday social pressures might just help you make it through these unfamiliar heights.3. Clothes. Wear comfy clothes. This is such a big one for me, that I have to feel, and look right when I’m boarding the plane. Wearing my favourite top, my smartest jeans, my prettiest nail varnish and my comfiest boots can have a much larger impact on my mood than I care to admit, and can give me that little boost of much needed confidence to just get on with the journey and act as a good as I look. This is a tool I use in some of my most anxiety-inducing situations…interviews, meetings, dates, anything that requires a big boost of confidence will always be paired with a kick-ass outfit to match. 4. Worrying. One of the most common worries for an anxiety-sufferer, no matter what situation they find themselves in, is the thought that they are the only ones to feel this way. That no one else is feeling scared right now, that everyone else is relaxed and experienced, and knows exactly what’s going to happen. This is a lie. With one in every four people suffering from a mental illness, it’s entirely likely that there are going to be quite a few nervous travellers surrounding you as you fly. There will be people on that flight who have bitten their nails into stubs worrying about the oncoming trip, who have gone back and forth a hundred times, who have nervously cried in the toilets, and sent text after text to their loved ones back home telling them they’re too scared to do this. But they got on the plane. And they won’t look nervous, they’ll just look normal. Just like you do.
*The calming words of this blog post take a short break here as our plane goes through a big bump of turbulence and the blogger writing it pauses to subdue a very large panic attack* 5. Survival. Hey look I survived the turbulence! A couple of calming words you might not have heard about surviving a flight abroad. * The feeling of a safe touchdown is one of the biggest bursts of euphoria you can experience * The journey going back home is as relaxing and comforting as you imagine it to be * Much like a roller coaster, once you’ve done one, you have a surprising itch to go on another flight – remember this itch and use it * The flight will always be over faster than you imagine, and will usually begin descent just as you get comfortable and settled * The break from Wi-Fi is actually surprisingly nice, and gives you so much gossip to catch up when you land back on safe ground * No two flights are the same. If one has bad turbulence and noisy passengers, the next will smooth and silent. Don’t let past experiences ruin future memories. I hope some of these tips might help any of you booking those scary summer holidays right now! We’re just about land so thank you for distracting me during this flight! I’ll be sure to write a couple more blog posts whilst in Prague, so look out for them throughout the week!
Have a fantastic day!