Hi, my name is Lizzie and I am a nervous flyer. I know that is probably a weird thing for a travel blogger to say, but sadly it is true. I usually spend the majority of my flights crying, staring at the aircraft wings hoping they don’t fall off, and watching the cabin crew to try and determine by their facial expressions if we are going to crash or not. Yes I have flying anxiety but the good news is the more I fly the more confident I become. So several flights and one fear of flying course later, I am sharing my tips for nervous flyers. From one nervous flyer to another, these are the things that help me get through those long hauls.
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 1- Turbulence is safe and the plane is not moving as much as you think it is
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 2- Have something to hold in case of turbulence
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 3- Tell cabin crew when you board the plane that you are a nervous flyer
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 4- Bring something on the plane that will distract you
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 5- Don’t forget to breathe
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 6- Imagine you are somewhere else
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 7- Get up and walk around
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 8- Control your catastrophising
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 9- Know your facts
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 10- Don’t read the news
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 11- Trust your pilot
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 12- Concentrate on your destination
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 13- Do a course
- Tips for nervous flyers Tip 14- Speak to your doctor
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 1- Turbulence is safe and the plane is not moving as much as you think it is
Despite the fact that my irrational anxious brain sometimes forgets this, my biggest tip for nervous flyers is that turbulence is safe. You just don’t hear of planes crashing because of turbulence. Yes you do hear of people being injured because of really bad turbulence, but that is more due to the fact that things can fall and you can lose your balance when it gets bumpy. It is also important to note that the aircraft is not moving as much as you think it is. Sometimes when we have hit turbulence I have imagined the aircraft dropping 10 stories. It’s not true. Your inner ear tends to play tricks on you, as humans are supposed to be ground dwelling creatures. Our senses become distorted and this can make you think you are falling thousands of feet when in reality it might only be a few feet. Imagine standing on the spot and dropping an inch. You might feel like you have lost your balance but in reality you have moved an inch and your inner ear and perception is playing tricks on you.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 2- Have something to hold in case of turbulence
So one time on a solo flight from Bangkok to the UK, we hit turbulence. I panicked so much that I actually grabbed the sleeping man next to me by the arm. It was uncomfortable and awkward for the both of us. Now that I mostly fly with Dave, he has become the person that I grab. So do your fellow passengers a favour and have something to hold onto and squeeze during turbulence. This can be a small soft toy or a stress ball. It really helps squeezing all my stress and tension into something and helps calm me down. If you forget to bring something with you, you can always ask the cabin crew. On a SwissAir flight I was given a toy Swiss airplane to squeeze.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 3- Tell cabin crew when you board the plane that you are a nervous flyer
One of my biggest tips for nervous flyers is to talk to cabin crew. It is now something I do routinely. If cabin crew know you are a nervous flyer they will check on you during turbulence and explain what is happening and how normal it is. Recently on a Swiss Air flight to Chicago I had told cabin crew that I was afraid. As we started our descent the captain explained it would be a bumpy landing due to the weather in Chicago. One of the flight attendants then came over to me to explain what this meant, and that it was safe and normal. This extra bit of reassurance really helped me. Sometimes you need that extra reassurance, especially from someone who flies all the time. That’s something to think about too. Cabin crew do so many flights and they live to tell the tale.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 4- Bring something on the plane that will distract you
Distraction is a great technique, however I know it is easier said than done. I used to bring books on the plane thinking I would read them. Instead I would read the same sentence over and over again. Now I actually make an effort to bring my I-pad and download shows that I am really immersed in. I am embarrassed to say but reality TV shows work wonders for me when flying. I get so caught up in the drama and forget I am on a plane.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 5- Don’t forget to breathe
This sounds really obvious but sometimes especially when we hit turbulence I forget to breathe. I then end up hyperventilating and stressing myself further. Actually take the time to concentrate on your breathing. Taking some deep breaths can help calm you down as well.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 6- Imagine you are somewhere else
Sometimes it helps me to close my eyes and imagine I am on a bus or a train. That way every bump or every noise becomes less scary. It takes a lot of practice and the breathing really helps with this as well.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 7- Get up and walk around
This might not be for everyone, but especially after turbulence (once the seatbelt signs are off) I like to get up and walk around. When fight or flight kicks in it makes me want to get up and move. I also feel a bit more in control as I can see that everything is actually ok. Especially on short haul flights this works wonders as I try to get to a certain time then walk around. For example if the flight is 1.5 hours I will usually walk around and go to the bathroom about 40 minutes in. This distracts me, and then by the time I am back in my seat it is almost time for landing (sort of).
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 8- Control your catastrophising
The thing about flying is, I know I actually wind myself up about it. My thoughts can go from pleasant to disastrous in a matter of seconds. I tend to catastrophise, and my thoughts just snowball from there. Something that has helped with this is wearing a rubber band around my wrist. When my thoughts get really bad I snap the band to try and shock myself into thinking normally again. If you don’t want to end up with swollen wrists though, try to stop yourself when your thoughts start to wander. These days I tend to recognise when my thoughts start getting a little anxious, and I say the words, ‘You are catastrophising’ to ground myself.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 9- Know your facts
Statistically, flying is the safest way to travel. I know this, and have read this thousands of times. When my thoughts start racing I often try to remind myself of this. There are thousands of flights taking off and landing every day. They don’t all crash, in fact air accidents are so rare, which is something to bear in mind.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 10- Don’t read the news
I know we all have that compulsion especially when you are a nervous flyer to read stories about flying. If I’m scanning through the paper and see a headline “near miss at Manchester Airport”, I’ll automatically read it and scrutinise over it. Save yourself the torment and just don’t. Newspapers are designed to sell stories and the best way to do this is through fear. No one wants to know about the ten thousand flights that landed safely. What makes news is that one flight that got a little bumpy and the passengers were upset. Journalists are not pilots, or experts on flying. But they are experts on sensationalising the smallest things. Remember that the next time you read an article about a flight that made an emergency landing. Most of the time they land safely without incident.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 11- Trust your pilot
Keep in mind your pilot wants to get home as well, and wouldn’t put themselves in danger as a matter of course. Pilots spend the whole flight planning what to do in case of an emergency. They know where every airport is, and how to get there in case of an issue. Plus they train so much, and are constantly training. I know it is hard to do, but you really need to trust that your pilot knows what they are doing.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 12- Concentrate on your destination
If we didn’t fly then imagine how much of the world we would miss out on. I have sipped cocktails by the Sydney Harbour, gone dune bashing in Dubai, ridden a gondola in Venice, and eaten deep dish pizza in Chicago, all thanks to flying. I get so nervous but I always know that getting to the end destination is worth it. And that is something important to remember.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 13- Do a course
These days one of my biggest tips for nervous flyers is to just go do a course. If you look at your local airport webpage they usually have information on any fear of flying courses available. The courses are great, and really do help. You spend the morning going through the phycology in regards to your fear of flying, and how to overcome this. You then go on a plane with an experienced pilot telling you everything you need to know about what is happening during your flight. Don’t worry he isn’t flying the plane, just commenting. The pilots flying the plane are concentrating fully.
Tips for nervous flyers Tip 14- Speak to your doctor
If all else fails speak to your doctor and see if they can help by prescribing some medication for your flight. It isn’t something I recommend routinely as you don’t want to become dependant, and you need to speak with a medical professional to see if this is an option for you. I have been known to take a valium particularly on long haul flights just to take that final edge off to help me fly without so much anxiety.