Hello and welcome everyone!
It is summer time and children are soon to finish school for the year. You know what that means right? It is time for the holidays! as for the lucky ones, most people would have holidays booked. But not everyone will be looking forward to their travels and flights. It is not all fun and smiles all round, especially for nervous flyers. The fear of flying is more common than you think. For instance, 17% of people have a fear of flying in the U.S alone.
I recently travelled to Lanzarote in mid-June, my severe anxiety hit the roof and boy was I nervous about flying. I have not flown for a while since last year when I travelled to Jamaica. What I find is that the less I face flying, the worse it gets for me. I was even so nervous that I even refused to pack at one point during the night before my flight. I am going to write about how my flight went, my coping mechanisms and tips I can give to you nervous flyers!
What Triggered My Fear of Flying
I went on my first ever flight when I was four years old when I went with my family to visit other family members in Malaysia. Since then I travelled to various countries such as Turkey, Tunisia, Lanzarote and Jamaica. All of those flights were fine and I did not even batter an eyelid before flying. In fact, I enjoyed every minute of flying, until one flight from London to New York. We were flying over mountainous terrain over Canada and the plane hit severe turbulence. I had no idea what turbulence was as all of the other flights I have been on were smooth. I thought the plane was going to fall out of the sky as the dips were so severe. This only lasted for a new minutes, but this felt like an eternity for me.
Since that scary flight from London to New York I have had the worst thoughts before flying – most of them being death related. But thinking back, if I was anxiety free before, I CAN enjoy flights again and so can you! from my experience it is not the actual flight that is frightening, it is pure 100% classic anxiety. I even remember landing into London Gatwick around 4 years ago in severe storms and lightning, the engine even sounded like it was struggling and I did not batter an eyelid and it landed safely. What ever happened to my brain right?! Everyone has different triggers and I hope that my stories (as scary as they were for me) and coping mechanisms can help you fellow readers.
My Pre-Flight Anxiety
The night before I was panicked. My anxiety was severe. I even struggle to leave the house so travelling again after a year was a big thing for me. I would even shake when I heard planes flying over my house as it reminded me of the horror scheduled at 1 pm the following day. It got so bad that I even refused to travel. At one point I even refused to pack my suitcase, told myself that I am not going and went to bed…with an unpacked suitcase. I woke up at 5 am angry at my anxiety, I thought, “I am not going to let my anxiety win!”, plus my mum was devastated when I said I was not going. So I jumped into the shower and packed everything on the morning I was travelling.
I got into my dads car to go to the airport. I kept thinking that cliche, “You are more likely to get killed on the way to the airport” saying. But guess what? I still kept panicking about the flight more than anything. Also, I previously downloaded FlightRadar24, once I saw the sheer amount of flights that were happening right now made me feel much better. At duty free I also bought a medium bottle of grey goose vodka, nothing too big. It is not the healthiest coping mechanism but it was a backup plan in case my nerves became really bad. That backup plan made me feel calmer. I focused on the scheduled flight boards and amount of people in the airport, this made me feel less alone and worried. It also made me realise of how slim the odds of my fears are.
The Feared Flight Itself
The closer the time came, the worse my anxiety became, the VERY anticipation of the event whilst waiting to board my flight. I kept looking at flight radar and it continued to help me. However, to my luck some seriously triggering things happened when I actually got onto this flight! the seats were more cramped than usual, this made me panic as I occasionally suffer from claustrophobia. Next thing, I looked around and the seats and interior of the plane looked very dated and flimsy. I panicked even more and was wondering if this plane was “safe” enough to fly. I was haunted by constant cracking from the plane seats which even caused my mum to be concerned, I was convinced that this plane could fall apart.
What made it worse is that the cabin crew and maintenance people were in and out of the cockpit for around 30 minutes. Then I hear, “We apologise that there will be a delayed takeoff, we had to fix some maintenance issues”. At this stage I had no choice but to go into fight mode, panicking won’t help. There was no way I was letting this get the better of me and my holiday money go to waste. I either panic, push my way off the plane before the doors close and watch my holiday go down the drain or fight. Takeoff was the scariest part for me as it is bumpy but the overall flight was smooth. The in flight meals were a great distraction too. However, one thing I did was watch time – which made it worse. When it landed I have never felt so proud!
Amy’s Top Fear of Flying Tips!
I am NOT going to give you the “You are more likely to get killed on the way to the airport than die in a plane crash”. No actually, I am. I am going to give you all of that statistics and facts later on in this post. Coming from someone who has studied psychological research methods and statistics for three years, statistics are the most solid and reliable sources you can depend on!
1. Flying is the safest form of transportation and the odds are in your favour
The odds of a plane crash are one for every 1.2 million flights. The odds of you dying in a plane crash is one in 11 million yet the odds of dying in a car crash or traffic related accident are one in 5000. But we don’t panic every time we get into a vehicle on the ground do we? People don’t do maintenance checks each time before they drive like they do in aviation – so keep that in mind! So what if you do end up in a plane crash? Chances are you won’t but let’s discuss this for fun. It has also been found that 95.7% of passengers survive in air plane crashes. Get the picture? is it worth worrying about now?
Yes it is a real fear and I know with anxious flyers that is that small part of them that think, “But what if it is my flight this time?”. But guess what guys? You can find out the actual odds of your plane going down by downloading the app Am I Going Down? . This is specifically developed for those with the fear of flying. This app requires you to enter your flight details and gives you real statistics based on your airline records and flight route – that have also been risk assessed. So if you can’t calm those pre-flight nerves I would recommend using this.
2. Turbulence is NOT dangerous! – Challenge every fearful thought you have and do some research on aviation
I don’t know your specific worries but I am going to challenge one of the common ones for you. The main one is turbulence. Research shows that planes are design to withstand extreme levels of stress, but not to worry 95% of air plane turbulence is considered to be “light”. The chances of experiencing moderate to severe level of turbulence are slim as flight routes are often planned beforehand. The good news is that if you encounter such turbulence, severe turbulence is often very short lived according to pilots – I can also confirm this from my flying experience. So whether it is a fear of an engine failure and other lovely catastrophic thoughts, challenge them with research and aviation facts. You’ll be pleasantly relieved!
3. Pay attention to noises, bumps and movements on the journey to the airport
I recommend this as I can guarantee that you’ll feel and hear a lot more odd sounds and movements than you would in a flight. But that does not make you panic right? think about it, why should these minor bumps and sounds send you into a panic? For instance, my dad’s road rage and sharp turns is a lot more scary than a flight in reality! Yet we still worry more in the air than on the ground.
4. Download FlightRadar24 and track flights beforehand
With the app FlightRadar24 you can track live flights. I suggest this as this will raise awareness of the hundreds of flights that are happening right now! This will help you to realise that you are not alone and the odds are in your favour. If flying was that dangerous would these thousands of people be risking their lives right now? What you can also do is track flights on the same flight route you are travelling on and even track the plane you will be flying on. I suggest doing this prior to your flight, it is actually viewing the sheer amount of flights that land safely on your flight route that can help put your mind at rest. Even better, you can track the very plane that you will be boarding and it’s previous journeys. Keep in mind the thousands of miles that your plane has travelled beforehand and how durable it is.
5. Buy some duty free goodies – And I don’t mean cologne and cosmetics!
Yes, this is not the healthiest and best examples so do this in moderation if your anxiety becomes severe. Yep, I mean’t alcohol. Stick to the miniatures though, because 1 unit of alcohol in the air equals to 3 on land! The good news is that if your anxiety gets bad, you can feel calm quicker. Only use this as a last resort. You don’t even have to drink, just merely having it there as a backup helped me.
6. Raise awareness of your surroundings
Awareness can help you to feel less alienated and worried. When you are at the airport, look at your surroundings. Look at the sheer amount of people in the airport, look at the scheduled flight boards. I specifically recommend doing this before boarding. Look at all of the planes that are getting ready to take off at the airport. Also, keep an eye on the staff such as pilots and cabin crew, this is their job! They do this on a regular basis. Think of all of the flights they have been on. Would they really choose flying careers if their lives were at risk? These feelings are induced by anxiety and that it can be overcome though anxiety reducing exercises too.
To anyone who is reading this, I hope that this helps you in your future travels. The fact that I was not phased by flying through storms in the past is how I know this is due to anxiety and that it can be overcome. What is the alternative after all? Remember that the world is your oyster and there are so many places to see and amazing moments to be experienced. I’d love to hear your lovely opinions and hope you enjoyed this!