This past weekend I had the joy of taking my cousin on his first flight. We spent a hectic 48 hours in Chicago seeing and eating everything we could, but recap on that tomorrow. I gifted Joe the trip for a variety of reasons. Sunday was his 18th birthday, I love doing big things for my loved ones, and ultimately he had lots of anxiety about flying on an upcoming spring break trip with his girlfriend’s family. I’m one of those odd ducks who loves flying and finds it to be an incredibly calm experience. My family figured it would be good if I could transfer some of that good juju onto Joe. Leading up to the trip I came up with a list of 10 Things to Help Anxious and First Time Flyers that I could use before and during our flights. They seemed to help Joe so I thought I would share them with you lovely readers in hopes that they would help someone else.
1. Set a calming and non-anxiety tone in the people you fly with. If possible, travel with someone who is not an anxious flyer for that calming presence. At the very least fly with someone who is patient and understanding. Discuss with them the ways that best calm you before take-off. Can’t avoid flying alone? Briefly introduce yourself to the person next to you when first boarding. You don’t even need to tell them about your anxieties, but having that basic comradery will allow them to feel more comfortable talking to you in a calming matter if something does arise. I promise it won’t go like the scene in Bridesmaids.
2. Thoroughly understand all situations during aspects of flying. This is more a preemptive calming feature. If you double check luggage, tickets, airline maps, and safety rules you will feel more prepared – no matter how many times you have flown.
3. Leave yourself more than enough time. Why add an additional stressor of cutting things close? There’s plenty to do in airports that won’t result in panic you’ll miss your flight.
4. Drink lots of water. During flights you reach an incredibly high elevation inside a plane where the same air is being recycled. This can easily lead to being dehydrated and experiencing side effects. You know what that can lead to? Unwanted anxiety. Starting about 24 hours in advance of boarding start trying to drink the necessary amount of water so flying doesn’t create problems.
5. Plan ahead to have multiple distraction tools during flight. Even though I’m not an anxious flyer I always have a good book I’ve been dying to read, snacks, extra water, a phone full of game apps, and a playlist of my favorite songs to occupy the time. The more you’re doing, the less time you can be pre-occupied in your head.
6. Prepare mentally. If you recognize your fears and are aware of them ahead of time you can be ready for when they happen. Know what exactly you’re afraid of and that many of those fears aren’t based in reality. Come up with a list of your fears and a counter-list of reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid or something that trumps the fear.
7. Deep breathing does wonders. The act of closing your eyes and focusing on your in and out breaths is known to induce calm. If you combine this with self talk and positive mantras it’s a good way to ease anxious tension. Might I remind you again my favorite mantra is “I got this shit” and oh yes you can be assured I told that to Joe multiple times this past weekend.
8. Try to look for the positives. Your attitude can make a huge difference in an experience. If things go wrong try and stay calm and tell yourself that the flight is short and you are gaining the opportunity to see new cities and experience new cultures because of the flight.
9. Know the statistics. I will admit that this depends on the person, but they’re good to know. Planes are safe. Much safer than even walking or driving down the street. Know there will be little bumps, lurches and weird noises – but that’s the plan doing it’s job correctly. Also be advised that severe turbulence is actually relatively rare. The movies like to really amp that up for dramatic effect.
10. Talk to your doctor about alternatives. There is a huge range of natural and pharmaceutical methods that doctors can prescribe to ease anxiety you may feel. I am not saying this option is right for all, but it may be what works for some.
Our flights were a success! We made it to Chicago and back and guess what? Joe doesn’t mind flying too much. There were no anxiety attacks to be had, hooray! While he still hates the take-off process (completely normal) he said it’s manageable now that he knows what to expect.
What are your trips for anxious and first time flyers?
P.S. – I seem to like making lists about travel based experiences, check out my 10 Tips for Traveling in Style and Comfort.
Until next time,