I will tell you right now – do not try to fly when there is a tropical storm (thanks Debby) in between your destination and the place you are leaving behind. Do not do this if you get airplane sick – don’t do it if you are even mildly afraid of flying. DEFINITELY don’t do it if you’re like me and are terrified to the point where you dread a plane ride for weeks before the trip. If you ARE like me, then you’ll feel my pain every time someone tells you not to be afraid, or asks you one of these questions:
Don’t you want to travel the world?
Yes. Preferably on foot. I’m satisfied with foreign movies for right now, thank you very much. Plus you know what? People don’t appreciate how much of America there is to be seen – via long road trips. In the future, maybe there will be a way to beam yourself international places. Then, and only then, I will be a master traveler to places that aren’t America.
Don’t you know that you’re more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the airport than to die in a plane crash?
Yes, and thanks for reminding me of this horrible statistic and making me afraid to drive, too. THIS STATISTIC DOES NOT HELP! Statistics may be on my side, but they don’t mean I can’t be one of the unlucky ones, especially because I have already been in a car accident!
Don’t you know turbulence isn’t harmful? It’s just uncomfortable.
It’s uncomfortable? You don’t say! The plane is flying up and down and side to side and you are sometimes coming out of your seat and there are no flight attendants in sight because they are strapped in tightly. The plane is creaking and tilting and going over and through in-air potholes and the back of the plane feels like it’s whipping wherever it wants. But yeah, it’s not dangerous, so thanks for that vital fact, I feel 100% better. CURED.
Why can’t you just think about something else and get over it?
Why am I talking to you again? Fear is a sneaky thing. You’ll think you’re okay and distracting yourself and suddenly your heart is in your throat and tears are in your eyes and you want to be anywhere but in this cramped middle seat on a bargain airline’s rickety (okay, it’s probably not rickety) plane. It’s not a fear that is easily overcome. It takes a long long time of slow progress each time you fly (i.e. First flight: Don’t cry. Next flight: Try not to grip the seat handles until your knuckles are white. Third flight: Be able to look out the window, etc). I do think – as much as it pains me to say it - flying as often as possible and pushing yourself may be the only way to beat the fear. Or hypnosis! I hear that’s good. I’m going to try that.
Anyway, back to my point. I was especially nervous for this trip because I would be flying alone, and started surfing the web for tips for calming your nerves. (There were no results for calming your nerves while flying alone during a tropical storm, so I settled for plain old “calming your nerves on a plane”).
This image is courtesy of USA Today. Why do they take planes through that?
I actually found some helpful (alcohol or other prescribed remedies not included – these are obvious and taken care of before I start looking for other things) ideas. So, in case you are a nervous flyer like me, here are 5 of my favorite ways (and my additional tips) I came across for calming down while 35,000 feet above, especially when a tropical storm is treating your plane like a football:
Breathe in and out slowly BEFORE you hit the height of your nervousness. Breathe in and then breathe out your mouth slowly while visualizing drawing the number three in your head. Do this three times. Then do the same with the number two and the number 1. Commit to it and make sure you do it during the time you know you will feel most nervous. For me, this is right before take off.
Consciously allow yourself to not control the situation. A lot of nervous fliers are such because they are not in control. If you can consistently remind yourself that this is a situation you are in that you simply have no influence over, it can really help. If you start to feel boxed in, think about something else, like every little thing you will be doing at your destination. Plan your days.
Look around you, especially at the flight attendants. They are happy, right? Look at your fellow travelers – they’re reading and falling asleep. You can take yourself off high alert, since they are!
This one seems silly, but I think it’s one of the ones that helps the most: pretend like you are totally fine. All those feelings that are jumping around your head as the plane is lurching? Keep them inside and keep a smile on your face. If you can project a sense of calm, you can keep the fear at bay.
Don’t fly! No I’m just kidding. You have to fly. It’s just a part of life. If it’s daylight out, gaze out the window – go on, you aren’t going to see anything terrifying out there (unless you’re afraid of heights, then abort! abort!). The clouds and sky are so peaceful – and if you’re not rocking too much, they can exude a sense of peace that just might reach your harried insides.
These are just the tips I found helpful – the situation could be completely different for you. But really, seriously, DON’T fly during a tropical storm if you want to keep it together – lest you have everyone on the plane around you congratulating you for making it through the flight (another one to add to the sucky memories list). But I survived! Now to tackle the return flight…
You can read more from Amie on her blog.