After only a few minutes in the air, I felt like my life was in danger.
The flight started normally – the door closed, the flight attendants and pilot greeted passengers on the loudspeakers, and we gained altitude.
Moments later we hit turbulence.
For a few seconds the plane rattled and shook.
Ok, nothing to worry about here.
I took a deep breath and tried to rest.
After a brief pause the turbulence came back. It felt like the clouds around us were shoving our mechanical bird around. This time the jolts didn’t stop and my comfort level quickly dissolved.
The air currents around us were unforgiving and for the remainder of the journey my fingers dug into the hand rests.
In spite of my dread and acceptance that maybe we wouldn’t land safely, we did actually land safely. The plane ride was over. I wearily staggered into the terminal.
This was the worst flight experience I ever had. Landing felt like a gift.
Little did I know but the emotional scars from that journey stayed with me for a long time. This experience didn’t stop me from flying, though. It did however, make me absolutely horrified of air travel.
A desire to conquer the fear of flying inspired this and my other most recent previous blog post. After a long time I was able to (mostly) lay the fear to rest.
In this post, I’m going to share some things I did to remain calm during that fateful trip. These strategies became the foundation of my current travel tools I use to stay relaxed while flying.
I still use some or all of them while flying today. Hopefully they can help you feel safe on your next flight!
Note: The tips listed below are based on my personal experience. They are not medically proven or tested. The advice given here should not replace recommendations from a medical professional. Also, this article is not meant to encourage people to fly over other means of transportation. It’s just to provide tools for those who would like to fly but aren’t comfortable.
Ok, let’s get started!
Safe words, affirmations, and prayers
For a long time I was terrified during plane take offs and landings. On the flight mentioned above I began repeating a comforting word in my mind over and over again to relax. To my amazement it actually gave me a strong feeling of security.
If you like this idea but can’t think of a word, here’s mine: “ice-cream.” It’s simple and delicious. Try saying this word at least ten times the next time you feel uncomfortable during a flight and it may help.
A simple positive affirmation like “I am safe” or “I’m protected” can also be beneficial. If you are spiritual then a prayer before, during, or after the flight can create a strong sense of security as well.
Some easy ways to do this would be to read a book, watch a movie, play a game on your phone, listen to something (podcast or music), or try to sleep (if it’s not too turbulent).
If you choose a book, then I recommend a juicy thriller, mystery, or romance novel. Anything that’s a page-turner is golden for a flight.
Similar to my first post, another strategy to feel safe is to imagine yourself already at your destination.
Picture the conversations you’ll have. Create in your mind the things you’re excited to do.
Personally, I’ve always felt safer when I pictured the reward of arriving at the destination.
Bonus: What’s your favorite and most comfortable method of transportation? Close your eyes and imagine yourself there instead. Maybe it’s not a plane you’re on but a boat, bus, or dinosaur (let your imagine have fun).
Enjoy the views
If you’re flying during the day and happen to have a window seat then something that works for me is to direct all my attention to what’s outside. Maybe you’ll see a cool mountain, river, or cloud formation.
I usually don’t focus on the wing but everything else around it. There’s a lot of beauty out there to behold.
Talk to people
I honestly am not always up for starting a conversation with the people next to me on a plane. This being said, one of the best ways to overcome a fear of flying is to talk to people.
Learning about someone else and having a conversation has many benefits: your mind goes away from yourself (your fear), you practice some social skills, and time usually flies by (pun intended) if the chat is interesting.
During turbulence: Observe the vibe
What I mean by this is to gauge the energy of the other passengers and crew. When there are a few bumps it’s helpful to see if anyone else is reacting to the sudden changes.
I learned that paying attention to (but not staring the whole time like a creeper) the flight attendant’s reaction to turbulence helped calm my nerves. Their body language should tell you how serious any turbulence really is.
So far I’ve never seen a crew member panic and all my flights thankfully have been safe (besides some turbulence).
My favorite: Be creative
Finding an activity that requires your complete attention is a great way to distract yourself during a flight. For me, doing something creative has always helped.
Writing is my inflight activity of choice. For example, the first draft of this post was actually written during a flight.
Also, most of us have smart phones so another idea would be to create a video collage of some recent photos or weed through old ones you want to erase. These all can be surprisingly engrossing.
Bonus: Remember this
Flying is the safest way to travel and the airline’s mission is to get you where you want to go safely. The crew are also people who want to remain alive just like us. Turbulence is natural. It doesn’t mean anything bad is happening to the plane.
You can do it! The world is waiting for you!
Have a great day and I hope you enjoyed this post. If you missed my first entry about getting over a fear a flying, check it out here!