I’ll admit, flying doesn’t really make me anxious. Of course, there are moments when thoughts of impending doom enter my mind, but I find I’m fairly good at ignoring them and enjoying myself (or as much as anyone can enjoy being on a plane for hours on end). For me it’s the planning and packing that gets me worked up.
But I loooove to travel. So, over the years I’ve learned to work with any anxieties I may have…
Before the flight
I start planning what to take with me about a week in advance. It starts with making a list of all activities I’ll be taking part in and figuring out what I’ll need.
Then comes the flatlay. I will lay out all outfits either on the floor, on the bed or both and this allows me to see exactly what I plan to take. It also always reveals any items that are inevitably doubled-up. Starting with plenty of time on hand gets the ball rolling and gets me super excited for the trip.
Excitement helps with appeasing the nerves.
If it’s a trip I’ve done before I like to work off a checklist, particularly when it comes to packing toiletries as they rarely differ between trips.
I’ll make sure to have all travel documents set out on the table before I go to bed (and not have to scurry around looking for something last minute). I don’t do well doing things ‘last minute’ - the thought makes me ill 🤢.
There are some trips I’ve done repeatedly and have it down to a routine. But on occasions when I’m going somewhere new, on an airplane that I haven’t been on before, I’ll leave myself plenty of time.
There are so many things that can create anxiety even before you board the plane: traffic, bad weather, long queues at the check-in counter or delays and cancelled flights. Allowing extra time can mean the difference between potentially forfeiting your trip and being able to make alternate plans.
I’ll often find myself with an extra hour or so to spare and it’s no fun having to sit at the gate counting down the minutes. Organise lounge access where you can have a serene place to eat, hydrate and recalibrate before you board the plane. You can also walk around the airport stores - some window shopping never hurt anybody 😉!
Pick the Right Seat
This will be different for everyone. Read about the different types of seating options availble.
For me, it’s an aisle seat, as close to the front of the plane as possible while still being far enough from the bassinet area.
Air travel is slightly more complicated than everyday modes of transport and so, with it, brings more complications like transportation to the airport falling through, encountering bad weather preventing flights or losing travel documentation.
In the planning phase of your trip have backup options for these ‘What if’ situations.
Wherever possible I fly during the day. While this may eat into your overall travel duration it not only makes transit easier, it helps with avoiding jet lag - see following point!
Combat Jet Lag and you will get so much more out of your trip.
Somehow, I managed to do a trip from Singapore to London (14 hours on a plane with a stopover each way) and not be jet lagged at all!!! 💪🏼 I will say I was very impressed with myself. I arrived around 8:30pm London time, got to my accommodation, had a shower and went to bed straight away. When I woke up I felt a little tired (but I’ve never been a morning person anyway) but ready to start the day.
Even though I expected serious jet lag to hit me going back home, I was able to avoid it as I got home around 8pm, had a shower and went to bed. The next morning I was fresh as a daisy - or as close as I can get being a non-morning person.
During the flight
The very first thing I do after I find my seat is whip out my foot hammock, compression socks, eye mask, and toiletries bag and I get comfortable.
Find the things that make it easier for you to feel ‘at home’ and bring them in your carry on. Maybe even, change into some comfortable clothing if you’re on an overnight flight. Make the space your own! Lay out your books and electronics so you don’t have to fuss around with reaching for your bags in the overhead locker.
Calming Techniques have seen me through some very anxious moments in everyday life. Most of these techniques require practice and getting to know which works best for you. If, at first, it doesn’t work out, keep trying and practice these well before your trip so you have the best change on your flight.
Distraction is my calming technique of choice - see following point!
Distract yourself and stay busy during the flight.
As soon as I find my seat and get comfortable, I reach for the in-flight entertainment and put on a movie or TV show and forget that I’m on a plane. Some planes have such extensive content you could very well be watching movies and TV shows from takeoff to the time you land.
If that’s not your thing then make sure to load up your laptop or tablet with content that you prefer, whether it be movies, TV shows or books. Make sure there’s enough there to last you the whole flight.
Very rarely are we able to just do nothing, where we have no internet connection and are forced to unplug. Catch up on that book you’ve been meaning to read, or watch TV shows & movies you’ve had on your list for a while. Or why not try for some meditation and really give your mind a chance to stop and relax.
Eat & Drink Well
While some will tell you to have a pre-flight cocktail to calm your nerves it may very well do the opposite. Stay well hydrated with water and have a balanced meal before your flight as well as during to give your body the best chance to feel its best after your flight is over.
A lot of people travel with their partner, family or friend. It can be more enjoyable and they provide ample distraction from the nervous event of flying.
Focus on the Goal
Whether you’re going to visit friends, family or for work flying is usually the quickest way to do it! Flying is a part of our lives now and the standards of safety are multitudes better than they used to be. You’re in safe hands!
After the flight
Learn about flying
Fear stems from the unknown. Learn everything you can about aviation and when you’re feeling out of control and anxious, call on your learnings to rationalise those fears before they take hold.
Most people can get by with some form of prescribed medication from their doctor to deal with mild and temporary fear of flying. However when this fear leaks into other parts of your life is when you should seek professional help and guidance on the root of this fear.
Finally, remember that you are safe and you are not alone!