There have been 3 times in my life when I’ve cried on an airplane.
The first was when I was about 9 years old and my family flew to Bermuda for a family reunion. My brother (who’s not really a jerk in general but definitely has his jerk moments) had been continuously telling me about the Bermuda Triangle and how planes get sucked into it all the time and everyone DIES.
Nice, right? Now that I think about it – this is probably where my intense flying anxiety stems from.
The second time was when I was maybe 19, and I was coming back from a mission trip from Eleuthera and the plane flew through a storm. Now, I have a tendency to overdramatize some things, but there are no words to express how sincere I am when I say that I truly thought I was going to die on that plane. It’s probably the greatest fear I’ve ever felt and the story honestly deserves it’s own post. So perhaps I’ll write a ‘story time’ about it at some point.
The third, and most recent, time was last year when I was on a flight to London, where I would be studying abroad for 4 months. It was the first time I was flying completely alone, going to a new country where I would be staying for months, where I didn’t know a single person. As the plane took off and turbulence took over I was hit with an intense feeling of ‘what the hell did I just do to myself’. And I stayed that way for more or less 7 hours while stuck in the sky over the Atlantic.
That’s all to say that for as long as I can remember I have never been good with flying.
I hate heights and the concept of a giant metal contraption flying through the air with a bunch of people on it makes me… uncomfortable… to say the least. And I know that flying is one of the safest ways to travel! Trust me, I have been told this time and time again.
One time my family was talking about different fears people have and my brother argued that people only have irrational fears because they don’t know a lot about whatever it is that they’re afraid of. While I do think that knowledge is a key source for diminishing fears, I don’t think that’s necessarily the end-all-be-all when it comes to why people are afraid of certain things.
I could read an entire manual about airplane mechanics and statistics, I could take classes on the construction and engineering of airplanes, and I could conduct in-depth interviews with the worlds best pilots, and I would still experience anxiety while flying.
But seriously, this is what helps me:
Movies Movies Movies
A good one – especially if you can watch it with someone else. Movies give you something else to focus on and they’re a good time waster. The last time I was on a long flight I watched The Intern with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway and I was able to avoid focusing too much on the plane for pretty much the whole 2 hours.
One time I was watching a movie with my sister and I got so involved in it that when the main character was hit by a semi-truck, I screamed. out loud. on the plane. (My bad – but the truck came out of nowhere – there was no warning.) I won’t say what movie it was for the sake of spoilers but I feel like my reaction to the truck was justified.
Sometimes I tell myself I have to write a certain amount of pages because it gives me a task to focus on. When I don’t have anything in particular to write about I tend to pick out people on the plane and write what I imagine their story might be – who are they with? Where are they going? What are they leaving behind? What are they looking forward to? I try to focus on their details.
(Honestly.) For those who are of-age, of course. I’m not saying get drunk, but a little bit of wine (or a drink of your choice) can put your mind at ease and can also make you tired enough to try and fall asleep – which is the real goal on planes.
But either a really dramatic one or a series you’re already invested in. It needs to be one that you can easily get into. I wouldn’t recommend starting a new book that you don’t know much about on planes. Sometimes if I know I’m going to really like a book and I know I’m going to be flying sometime in the near future, I wait to start the book until a night or two before the flight so that I’m already into by the time the plane takes off. I find that Colleen Hoover books are really good for flights.
Breathing exercises.(Really though.) I know this sounds kind of stupid but focusing on controlling your breathing really can help regulate your heart rate which can reduce the anxiety a bit. If none of the other distractions are working, try it.