As I got older I began to develop an irrational fear of flying. Even though I had flown numerous times previously, it seemed to worsen as I entered into my twenties. This fear was most apparent on a flight to Lanzarote in 2011. We were on a group holiday and as we didn’t prebook our seats, I ended up having to sit next to two strangers. My partner was sat next to me but with the aisle between us. This however was enough to freak me out, but Tim managed to calm me enough to stay on the flight and sit in my seat. Once sat, the two young women next to me started to discuss, in quite large detail, planes crashing! To be honest, with my heightened state of emotion it could have almost been my imagination, or at least partly but I still lost it with the two women. I can’t remember what was said but it kept them quiet for a while. I’m not a confrontational person generally but this was just one of those moments where my buttons had been pressed. I then had to sit rather awkwardly next to these girls for the rest of my four hour flight. As we got off the plane, Tim vowed that he would never fly with me again, although he seemed to forget that we still had our flight back to complete! 🙈
On my most recent flight, I had a complete meltdown. It started on the journey down to the airport, we nearly broke up there and then due to my irritability and nippiness of a Yorkshire Terrier (sorry to you Yorkie lovers)! I think if it had been the other way round I would have left him on the Severn Bridge! 😂 By the time I got on to that plane my anxiety was through the roof, and led me to uncontrollably crying on take off. It was such a horrible start to our holiday. We were on a long weekend away and I just thought at that point that this really wasn’t worth it.
The following morning we woke up in sunny Majorca and went to eat some terrible breakfast on the sea front. At that point, I couldn’t have given a damn that my tea tasted like Earl Grey mixed with milk and that my toast was that sweet sliced bread that they think us Brits love. As I relished the sun light and the sound of the sea, I also realised that my irrational fear of flying and my reaction just quite frankly, ridiculous. Im not underplaying what that fear feels like, but I put myself through hell to get to a such a lovely place and I decided I didn’t want to do that to myself again.
After a relaxing three days, on the day of the flight home we drove past the airport runway. Watching the planes take off was no way as aggressive as I thought it felt. It actually looked rather elegant and didn’t match the feeling I had of being pushed back in my seat. I was already in the mindset that I had to conquer this fear of flying and watching the planes take off encouraged it further.
During takeoff I sat in the window seat and instead of scrunching my eyes and clawing Tims hand off, I decided to watch us lift off the runway. I imagine the planes I had watched earlier and realised that the plane didn’t feel as fast I had previously thought. Once we had lifted off the ground Tim gave me a reassuring look as I turned towards him but to his amazement, I had a smile on my face! I can’t believe I am saying this but, I actually quite enjoyed take off! My biggest fear was always the take off and landing. Any noises I heard I remembered hearing them on the flight there. Don’t get me wrong, my emotions were still heightened but I was far better at controlling it. I still kept my belt on throughout and I got little blips of worry here and there during slight bumps or the sound of something unusual. During these points I just focussed on my magazine. I think next time I will try and take something to watch for more distraction and to filter out any sounds.
I was also fine on landing, I love watching the land getting closer, and nosing in peoples gardens! We discussed whether we thought it would be a bumpy landing and almost played a game on guessing the severity of it. After the first bump I was thinking, any more? Then after a couple more I could feel the brakes and I knew we were finally landed. That “game” totally distracted me and almost made it fun.
I am hoping that I will be able to control my emotions during my next flight, but I already know that my anxiety will be lower then previously felt. The thought of flying no longer fills me with dread, rather I’ve made the positive association with a lovely holiday. I will be following these points to try and control it;
- Pre-book your seats if necessary so you are guaranteed to sit next to who you are going away with.
- Bag weight always worries me- make sure you have a bag weighing scale to check you are not over and take it with you for your return.
- Ensure your travel to the airport is as stress free as possible. Plan for traffic (especially on a Friday as we had learnt)! They say to be there at least 2 hours before, but if you are very stressed out at the thought of flying I would aim for 3- thats what we did on our way home. We had food and wondered around the shops, time flew.
- Keep all of your important documents together so you know where they are, and in a separate pocket to your other things if possible, so they are easily accessible. Stumbling around for them can heighten your anxiety!
- If you can, watch some planes on take off as it looks far less aggressive then it can feel. Once on the plane imagine the smooth take offs you saw.
- A tip from one of my Insta lovelies, if you start to freak out, tap your foot to distract you. Then once calm choose an activity to distract you like reading or watching a film.
- Remember that the noises such as the wheels coming out before landing and even the musty almost burning smell you sometimes get is normal.
- Try not to close your eyes- I found this made the experience feel much worse, my imagination took over. Watch what is going on, look out of the window if possible. What you see feels a lot better then what you imagine!
- Take a travel cushion so you can relax, and hopefully sleep through.
It may take another awful flight to help you but trust me, it so so worth it! I used my horrible experience to motivate me to get over it. I looked around on the plane and no one looked as terrified and tearful as me, it was totally irrational and I had to learn to control it for myself and my relationship! Hopefully I’m still allowed on another plane with him, haha, but as time goes on, and if my anxiety creeps back I am going to try and remember how I feel about flying right now. Its like a bus, but in the sky, people are on and off all day long and as they say, its safer than travelling in the car. Although that statement has never really reassured me!
I hope this has helped any fearful flyers- good luck! Just remember, don’t let a bad flight put you off, use it as motivation to conquer your fear, you can do it! Happy travels,