Flight or Fight: Dealing With Airplane Anxiety

Hundreds of flights take off, and soar across the world, every single day.

Up and down, they take off and land. Up and down, it seems so simple doesn’t it?

A basic function, beginning to end, you would think that those actions would not hold as much weight as they did. But they do, to me at least.

With the hundreds of flights that take off everyday, there’s also hundreds of people with flying related anxiety on those flights. Passengers with flight anxiety experience a range of symptoms from sweaty palms, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and even lightheadedness. Apart from the physical symptoms, the mental affiliations can be just as bad if not worse.

One of the most intense mental symptoms are the intrusive thoughts. Around each glance, each breath, and each movement, the dark fingers of intrusive thinking are clutched tight across each action. “What if” question begin to permeate the tranquility and excitement of the travel that was once so fun.

What can we do to help ourselves?

There are options.

Diagnosed, and in therapy, for my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I suffer from this pre/in/after flight anxiety that many others unfortunately experience. This meaning, my OCD takes a hold of the things that matter most, and in flying’s case that’s my safety.

Luckily, through time, a little therapy, and a lot of perseverance, I have found some tactics that make my in flight experience a much more pleasant one.

One of the first things I do, that seems to have the greatest effect of all, is accept the anxiety I will inevitably have. So, I accept I will breathe heavy and my heart rate will rise as we pull back from the gate. I will pull out my headphones and listen earnestly to each word that’s spoken by the flight attendants, especially the pilot. I will jump, flinch, and grab at the divider between the seats with each bump of turbulence, no matter how gentle. All in all, I know that it’s going to happen, and all I can do is accept it.

The next thing I have to do is to conquer my thoughts. You know the ones I’m talking about, the intrusive ones. These are the thoughts that tell you everything that could, and might, go wrong with the plane. I won’t go into details, as I’m writing this article while I’m on a plane. I won’t go into detail because conquering these thoughts is key to having a better flight. You have to accept them too. You have to accept the fact that you have no control over what is happening. Whatever happens, happens, and you must know that you can do nothing about it.

Scary right?

That’s what I thought too, and still do sometimes.

But by taking this mindset, we are able to let go a little bit, let some breath out of those tightened lungs, and maybe actually enjoy the damn plane ride. I’m still nervous, and the thoughts are still there; but by accepting my lack of control, I have so much more.

Safe travels ladies, feel free to comment any flight tips below.

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