“I hate flying.”
“But you travel all the time. How can you hate flying?”
“I don’t know. How can you not detest hurtling through the sky in an aluminum biscuit tube of terror?”
I’m scared of flying, and I’m entirely aware that my biggest fear is completely irrational. So please, don’t tell me flying is the safest form of transportation, and planes don’t just fall out of the sky. I already know all this, but it doesn’t help me get rid of the heebie jeebies.
I’ve flown all over the country and overseas ever since I was six. However at 22, I developed a debilitating fear of flying. It hit all of a sudden on a flight home from Costa Rica. I was instantly terrified and begging to just be on the ground again. For about a year, I stayed grounded, then I slowly started taking short trips again.
After three years of barely traveling, my intense boredom began taking over my fear of flying. I would spend hours on Pinterest dreaming of far off lands. Finally, I decided that I was going to have to die some way, so I might as well die on an airplane traveling to someplace new.
I’ve been flying with my distress as an extra carry-on for a few years now, so I have some effective and drug-free ways of coping with the constant anxiety, even on 14 hour Trans-Pacific flights.
1. Entertain all your senses.
Even though it’s my favorite pastime, I cannot read on flights. It allows my mind too much room to wander, which inevitably leads me to imagining the jet crashing into the ocean. Instead of reading, I break out my coloring book or play games on my iPad while listening to soothing music. My favorite game is Bejeweled in Zen Mode. It requires some thought while it arranges the colorful gems so you never lose while enjoying soothing nature sounds. Both these activities use sight, motion, and sound to keep my mind from automatically skipping to the worst-case scenario.
2. Check your posture.
I automatically tuck my feet under my seat. This is not good. I’m already in fight or flight mode, ready to jump out of my seat or drop into a pre-crash braced position at a moment’s notice. I have to force myself to stretch out my legs, straighten my back and breathe. Relaxing my body allows my mind to relax along with it.
If you only remember one thing, remember to breathe, damn it. For me, the best way to focus on my breath is the 7 in-11 out technique. Count to seven as you breathe in, then count to 11 as you breathe out. Simply counting breaths doesn’t do it for me, this method keeps me consistently focused on my breath.
4. Count out the first 90 seconds.
I’ve heard the first 90 seconds after take-off is the most dangerous time in an airplane. If you hate taking off, count out that first minute and a half. This helps me relax, since I know my chances of dying have gone from extremely unlikely all the way down to minuscule.
5. Avoid checking the time.
Looking at the flight clock just makes me more anxious by the second and ready to exit the terrifying high-speed tube.
6. Catch some ZZZs.
I know what you’re thinking: “How the eff am I supposed to sleep when I’m petrified of falling to a very uncomfortable death at any moment?” Well dear reader, I will let you in on my precious secrets of sleeping soundly in your uncomfortable coach seat.
First, before you fly, invest in these long flights necessities, they are totally worth it: a dork butt cushion, an eye mask and noise cancelling headphones. I know I look like a big weirdo, but I am in my own safe, dark, quiet world and my tailbone isn’t screaming for mercy at the end of 12 hours.
Second, order the vegan meal. You get your food first, and it definitely sits better with me.
Third, I drink some red wine and a glass of water with dinner. After dinner, I drink some chamomile tea.
Finally, I take two melatonin tablets with a full glass of water. Once I start feeling drowsy, I put on my eye mask and pop in my headphones. Doing this, I successfully slept for 10 hours on a flight to Seoul.
7. Sit next to Chatty Cathy.
On a quick flight from Baltimore to JFK, I was stuck in one of those tiny flying cardboard box propeller planes. Luckily, the lady beside me could not stop talking. Although I typically prefer dreading my high-speed drop to earth in silence, she kept me entertained the entire hour-long flight from hell.
8. Finally, if all else fails, get drunk and watch Game of Thrones.
Unfortunately, this was me on a flight home from Tokyo. It was extremely bumpy, and I just couldn’t shake my nerves. Three of those tiny bottles of wine and my favorite TV show helped immensely. However, I’m sure all the flight attendants enjoyed making fun of the sloshed American watching pornography.
Author: Staci Lerch-Moist
Apprentice Editor: Tammy Novak Editor: Travis May
Image: Tammy Novak