I’ve been afraid to fly forever—but it hasn’t stopped me from seeing the world. Here are three ways I cope with my anxiety. Maybe they can help you, too!
Next month I’m going to SNAP Conference in Salt Lake City and I just found out I’m headed to Southern California in May. This means that I’ll be flying twice in the next few months. And while I love to attend events, visit friends, and explore new places, I also hate to fly.
I always joke that I love to travel just slightly more than I hate to fly. I absolutely love seeing new places around the world, but I’m a ball of anxiety every time I step inside an airplane. My hands go clammy, I’m queasy, and I’m hot-cold all over. My blood pressure tanks and I have a hard time focusing. I can’t accurately tell how the plane is moving—we bank slightly to the right and sometimes I swear we’re in a barrel roll and my stomach responds accordingly.
My least favorite part of flying is turbulence. No matter how many times it’s explained to me, I don’t understand how air can be bumpy. I’ve tried to learn all I can about how an airplane functions but my brain is not mechanically minded and it doesn’t ease my fears.
But I still fly. Because travel is so important to me. Here are three ways that I cope with the fear, so that it doesn’t keep me from seeing the world.
Imagine I’m somewhere else
I know that my fear is just an overwhelming emotion that’s creating stress cortisol hormones that make it very hard for me to calm down. I’ve started to combat these hormones by creating lovey-dovey oxytocin hormones.
While the plane is taking off and landing, I do this by imaging our wedding day or thinking about our boys. When I can turn my phone on, I flip through my photos. One look at our sweet boys and I feel a lot better. Sometimes I’ll chat with a neighbor about them. Just imagining being somewhere else with the people I love helps bring down the levels of stress hormones.
I relinquish control
I think I’d be a much better flyer if I could open the window, or walk into the cockpit, or pull the plane over for a quick break. But once we’re in the sky, my control is gone. I’m stuck in that tiny seat, next to who knows who, until we land at our destination. And I don’t do well with a lack of control.
I’m a Christian, so I often spend a lot of a flight telling myself not only is God in control—I am never in control. Not on this flight, not at home, not when I’m walking the aisles at Target. I often have a spiritual moment on a flight, where I again admit my need for God. Then I picture Jesus flying the plane, wearing that aviator’s cap and cool sunglasses. He’s got this. I don’t need to control it.
Fake it till we make it
For most of the flight, I will just pretend I’m fine. I’m seriously NOT FINE, but if I casually peruse the Sky Mall catalog or listen to a podcast, I do a lot better than if I give into the anxiety. I will order my ginger ale and eat my pretzels, watch a movie if it’s available. If it’s a long flight, I’ll pretend to sleep. One one in a dozen flights, I might actually sleep. But I’ll just keep on keeping on. Because the second my mind clicks over into Total Anxiety Zone, I’m toast. But if I can keep faking it, we’ll be on the ground in no time.
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