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14-April-2007 The Walls Are Closing In! …… No They Are Not! (Simple Ways To Avoid A Fear of Flying)
I am not going to profess to know about anxiety and what causes fears, panic and that feeling some people have that they are like a vacuum sealed peach in a can as soon as the aircraft door closes. What this post is about is a few ideas to try that make make flying a more enjoyable experience for those who tend to be a little nervous about flying.
Obviously I have no fear of flying, From a very young age, like under one year in age, my parents took my brothers and I down to Florida to see my Grandma. This trip involved flying from the airport five miles from our house, New York’s JFK, down to my Grandma’s local airport in Florida, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood (FLL) on a Delta (DL) L-1011. I always looked forward to these trips, the excitement of watching the planes come and go, watching the people in the terminal rushing from gate to gate.
Something my father told me as a very young child has stuck with me through all my travels and flying. It was a trivial, humourous comment, but is always in my head when I am booking my seat selection, “If you can see the wing you know you’re doing just fine.” With this in my head I almost always book my seat on the wing or just behind the wing. By sitting in these seats I am able to watch the wing , which using my father’s logic means we’re going OK.
I do have more practical advise, which I’ll get to, I just always liked the advice I got as a young child……..so onto the other suggestions…….
Prior to flying try and make yourself as relaxed as possible. I know travel can be stressful, packing, traffic, the wait at the ticket counter, etc. Don’t worry about these things. Try and put yourself in a happy state of mind before heading to the airport. Try and leave plenty of time to get through the airport, even as an experienced traveller with access to the “priority” check in lines and the “priority” security lanes, I still like to leave myself two hours at the airport when possible. Leaving plenty of extra time takes some of the mental burden off checking in baggage, getting through security and allows you to sit down and relax prior to boarding rather than running for your flight. I know this is not always possible, but it helps.
While waiting for your flight DO NOT DRINK! (OK, water , Gatorade, soda, those are OK, but NO BOOZE!) Alcohol can make the affects of jet lag much worse and overall it tends to have more of a negative affect on people when flying than the normal idea that it will calm you down. Is there anything wrong with drinking pre-flight or on board? No, obviously not, they’ll serve you the drinks, but it is not the best idea for people who have jet lag problems or anxiety about flying.
Once in the gate area and the gate agent starts calling boarding zones, if you are in Zone 5 don’t get up and start queuing. Queuing very early just clogs up the boarding area, it raises tensions and often brings on anxiety. Once your zone is called, then line up. You have your boarding pass, your seat is assigned, if you are in the gate area the plane is NOT leaving without you. So relax!
If you are taking a long haul flight and want to sleep while on board, it is best to try and take your sleep medication as the boarding zones are being called. Taking the pills prior to boarding, especially for a long haul flight which can take quite a while to pushing back from the gate, means you have a better chance of being asleep when the door gets closed. With both over the counter and prescribed medications you always want to try out the medication at home before you travel. One medication you may want avoid Ambien due, to it’s original purpose as an anti-psychotic medication. There are many horror stories about Ambien from very frequent flyers and in-flight cabin crews.
Once on board remember to remain calm. It may sound funny, but it is important. I have seen a number of people start to hyperventilate once they board the aircraft. There is no reason for this, you are on the ground, the door is open, people are walking around, just breath slowly and relax.
A great way to block out everything and make your own personal space is to travel with a hooded sweat shirt and a good set of noise canceling headsets. I suggest a dark sweat shirt because it will block out the light. When you setting into your seat, place your headsets over your ears and pull your hood up over your head. Try and pull the hood slightly ahead of your face on the sides and just over your eyes in the front. This will eliminate most of your peripheral vision, and combined with the noise canceling headsets, you should have now created your own personal space. I often click my iPod on and just zone out from the time I board until I either get fed or I feel like watching a movie (if you fly on United Airlines, you can listen to the air traffic control conversations from the cockpit on Channel 9 during departure and arrival!).
On a long haul flights you want want to consider bringing your own small DVD player with an auxiliary battery. Energizer makes a very compact one that lasts about 4-5hrs on a 7″ screen DVD player for around US$30. Watching your own choice in movies , rather than the movies forced on you by the airline, can always make your flight more relaxing.
Remember to also keep yourself hydrated, walk around when you can to stretch and keep the circulation going. If you can do some simple exercises from your seat. These three simple things can make you more relaxed and feel more in control regarding your time spent on board the flight.
Kick back plan your trip and (if I may steal a catch phrase from Virgin Atlantic) Go Jet Set Go!