We’re leaving on an airplane….. don’t know if our mental sanity will be intact again….
So we’ve spent the last week packing, planning, organising, stressing (me, not the rest of the family!) in preparation for our little sojourn down south. Holidays are the best! That feeling of anticipation and excitement upon waking up and heading to the airport, forgetting what day of the week it is, taking things at your own pace. The best! What’s not the best is the stress and panic in the lead up to ensure that everything is checked, booked, paid for, children are accounted for. Oh yeah, and if we’re flying, then the preparation my husband has to undertake in order to get on a plane. The poor guy has quite the fear of flying. I’m sure he married me for the free therapy. Me? I love flying. I’m one of those freaks that enjoys turbulence. I’ve never thought about it until I met him. Our first flight together I noticed he had stayed on the same page of his magazine for about half an hour. “Are you ok?” I asked him, curiously. Then I spied his white knuckles gripped to the armrests and I surmised that perhaps he wasn’t as keen on flying as I was. But you know, it hasn’t stopped him! We’ve been along the East Coast of Australia, to Vanuatu, all across Europe and the UK, and even up a giant mountain in Switzerland (Mt. Titlis to be exact. He he he…. I still giggle when I say it. It’s trying to be a Mountain of great esteem, but really. It’s titless. Ha ha. #growup ). It’s taken a lot of work on his part, but he has learned to cope with his fear of flying pretty darn well.
He’s certainly not alone in his fears. Aerophobia (fear of flying for those playing at home) is really common, and it can be severe and persistent. I’ve had clients who have stopped flying for 20 odd years- it’s a game changer. What can be done? Well here’s a couple of things my husband has done (possibly guided by some chick…)
• Slow down! Slow your breathing down, slow your body down. When we take short, shallow breaths, as we do when we’re a bit panicked, it sends a message to the brain that shit is about to hit the fan, and our minds then act accordingly. Doesn’t help one bit! Relax the muscles in your body, relax your breathing. Just one step at a time
• Look at your thoughts– what are they saying? What’s your trigger? Is it being so high up? Is it the feeling of helplessness and lack of control (which is what my husband says is his thing)? Is it being in a confined space? Get to the bottom of it so your fears can be reassessed
• Look for the facts. Where is your evidence for such thoughts? Just because something pops up in your head, doesn’t mean it’s 100% true. Flying is actually safer than driving, did you know? Cray! Pilots are rigorously trained, and have regular tests and simulation exercises they have to do.
• Take a fear of flying course. Qantas are known to hold some, but there are also some good ones online. See here and here and if you’re in Brisbane and have cash to splash then here There’s even an app here
• It’s all about desensitisation. I love the word desensitisation. It just sounds fancy and proper. Technically we call it ‘systematic desensitisation’, where you start of small, get yourself desensitised to one aspect, or a small part of the fear, and then work your way up the chain. Once you’re used to the idea, and you’ve allowed the fear to peak and then drop again (think of the rise and fall of a wave), you start to see that you can cope. With a few clients I’ve had in the past, what I do is get them to visualise every step in getting ready to board a plane. I’ll play some airplane noises, and get them to really put themselves into the situation. Sure, it doesn’t feel too nice initially, but it’s about re-writing the script, rather than saying “oh my gosh I can’t do this! This is scary! What if the plane crashes?”, we look at “I can give this my best shot. This is safe, normal and it will be over very soon” (unless you’re taking an overseas trip, then you’re screwed. Kidding! I kid! :P). While the feelings of ick rise up, slow that breathing down, relax those muscles and kick in with the balanced thoughts that you’ve devised, based on the facts you’ve found. Soon enough that panic subsides and you’re feeling more at ease.
• Talk about it. Talk about it a lot. Get used to the idea, get support from others.
• Take something comforting with you- a book, some great music, fave lollies, a familiar scent. Anything that will put you at ease and take your mind off the panic- even if only temporarily.
• Travel with a ‘support buddy’. Someone who can recognise your ‘early panic warning signs’ and coach you to kick in with your stress-reduction techniques. My poor husband instead gets me…. “Oh you’re fine. It’s not even a big deal. It’s not like we’re dealing with spiders or anything!” I promise you I am a nice psych! And if you can’t travel with a support buddy, let the airline hosties know that you’re a little freaked and they will be your buddy!
• Celebrate! Even an attempt to calm yourself is worth of a celebration. Doesn’t have to be perfect- it’s not about eliminating the fear entirely, it’s about having it more manageable so you feel comfortable and are able to get on with it.
So wish us luck as we endure multiple flights over the next week! Well, really, I just want you to wish me luck as I keep my shit together trying to keep the organisation flowing and avoid having a glass of wine at 8:15am while my girls bicker on the plane trips.
What kind of traveller are you? Are you a fellow turbulence lover? Does flying freak you out? What do you do to cope with flying? Share your tips!