Followers of this blog will know by now that I am not the best flier. My nervous system goes into complete over drive and I can spend weeks worrying about the flight ahead.
However, I really love travelling and I want to do more of it post PhD and pre-babies so flying to these places is often the cheapest and fastest option of getting anywhere.
We have recently returned from a week in Barcelona so of course this involved some short flights. As usual I got a bit nervy but I was determined to try and enjoy my flights and I wanted to put into practice what my interest in mindfulness has taught me.
I’ve included some of the things that I do during my flights to try and stay calm and I hope you find these tips helpful, even if you love flying 😉
1. Scared of turbulence? Pay attention on your journey to the airport…
My biggest worry on planes is turbulence, well, truthfully even the idea of turbulence makes me squirm. The sensation of any bump in the journey sets my heart racing and my anxious thoughts into over drive.
One of the best things I’ve ever done pre flight was to close my eyes on the journey to the airport (be it in the taxi or a train journey) and imagine I’m on the flight already and to really pay attention to every single bump and movement of the trip.
Then if there are any bumps in my flight I think back to a couple of hours earlier when I was on my way to the airport and pretend I’m just on a train. Sounds simple but it really helps me to put any bumps into perspective.
2. Set your expectations
For me, the fear of the unknown is a major factor with flying. I’m not 100% clear on how everything works and what all the different noises mean and that can leave me feeling out of control. So one way that I try to prepare for my flight is to check the weather forecast or to check the app Turbcast (info at the end).
This app lets you put your flight details in and tells you what the chance of turbulence is on your flight. It also helpfully breaks down the flight into three sections so you really know what to expect and when.
We had some minor turbulence on the way back from New York (there was a storm) and this app let me know that there was going to be turbulence at the start of the flight so when things did get a bit jiggly I knew that the pilots would have been prepared for it and that it would pass (which it did!).
3. Over plan things to do
When I fly I always have a range of things to do prepped so that I have options to keep me entertained and focused during the flight. So things like downloading a week’s worth of Eastenders to watch, downloading loads of my favourite albums on Spotify, a good book, a notepad and a pen…I like being in the frame of mind where I’m almost disappointed with the flight ending because I didn’t find out what happens in the latest episode of Enders! Wishing time away is not enjoyable and it’s certainly not mindful! So enjoy the chance to really indulge in whatever you don’t have time to do otherwise.
I find that listening to my favourite albums can really help me to stay calm, and I make a real effort to properly concentrate on the words. I find singing along in my head can give me a well needed break from anxious thoughts.
4. Book the window seat
No matter how scared I am of flying, the view from the window never ceases to amaze me and I am always so grateful for the amazing world that we live in.
For our American trip we did two over night flights and not being able to look out of the window made me feel a bit claustrophobic. So since then we made sure to book day flights for Barcelona and I really enjoyed being able to look out over Spain and the UK (especially the white cliffs of Dover when we were approaching the UK!). Obviously day flights won’t be possible or convenient all the time, but it made a real difference to me and might be something to think about if you don’t like the idea of being in the plane.
5. Reflect on why you’re scared
I was listening to a podcast about hypnosis (as ya do) and the lady who practices hypnosis made a point that if we needed to be scared of flying then absolutely everyone would be scared. So on that basis, being scared of flying is a choice?! Hearing this was a bit of a wow moment. Why is it that I prefer not to fly and my husband loves flying? What would it be like for me to choose to like flying? I’m not saying it’s that easy, but it’s something to think about. When did you learn to be scared of flying?
6. Be kind to yourself
I would bet that you’re not the only scared one on your flight. On our flight to Barcelona there was a little girl in tears and physically shaking because she was scared of getting on the plane. So I made sure to smile at her and look as relaxed as possible to try and reassure her. It did make me think though, that when I get a bit scared of flying I can get a bit annoyed with myself for being anxious, but there was no way that I felt annoyed with the little girl that was scared – I just felt compassion for her! So, if you do get scared try to show yourself some compassion and try not to be too hard on yourself.
7. Feel your feelings!
Feel anxious? Don’t try to rationalise, don’t try to change the thought, don’t start to panic…simply appreciate that you’re feeling anxious right now and that’s ok! Lean into it, because it will pass.
I try to speak to myself like a friend, so when I’m feeling anxious I will think things like “you’re doing really well bab!”, “I know you’re nervous, but girl, you’re doing it anyway and that’s really good!!” Replace your anxious thoughts with being your own cheerleader and over time you’ll definitely feel more relaxed.
8. Try something to take the edge off
Anxiety can feel extremely uncomfortable in your body and mind and sometimes we need a little help to calm ourselves down. I’ve used Bach’s rescue remedy spray and gum (this also helps when your ears are popping!) and found them helpful. Meditation just before the flight has also worked wonders for me, especially the emergency calm meditation on the Calm app! Failing that a gin and tonic or two can help to take the edge off too. Remember to check with your prescriber or pharmacist before taking any medicines.
9. Make a to do list
This sounds totally dramatic but there have been times where I’ve been so scared about flying that I will always text my loved ones before my flight to say I love them and pray the whole way that we “make it”. When you think about the fact that 8 million people fly everyday going into a flight thinking that you’re not going to make it is pretty silly, especially when I never have that thought in a car or on a train…
So one thing that I like to do is make plans for what I’m going to do when I land. Admittedly, this is more fun on the way to your holiday but even making a boring to do-list on the way home can prove to your anxious thoughts that you know you’re going to be able to tick every last thing off your to-do list when you land 😉
10. And if all else fails….
Give your negative or anxious thoughts a name, because remember one of the key parts to mindfulness is realising that you are not your thoughts. Seriously though, it lightens the mood if every time you have a anxious thought you reply with something like “ok thanks for looking out for me Brenda, but I’ve got this!” 😂
I hope these tips help on your next flight, and if you can think of anyone that these tips might help, I’d be so happy if you could share this post.
As always, thanks for reading!
Turbcast app ( useful for predicting turbulence on your flight)
Hypnosis podcast (also known as “The most powerful way to change unwanted thoughts & behaviors I’ve ever found with Marisa Peer” on the Jess Lively Show)
Bach’s rescue remedy – herbal relief for anxiety
Calm – useful meditation practices, many of them are free!