Nervous flyer tips: The best guide how to help you

Image by Sacha Verheiji - Nervous Flyer Tips
Image by Sacha Verheij

What does it mean to be a nervous flyer?

As with all forms of mental health there are so many reasons, explanations and causes for our feelings therefore I want to give you some nervous flyer tips. And let’s be honest sometimes there are fuck all reasons for our fear and anxiety but they come a long anyway just because they can.

I’m going to be honest I didn’t actually develop a fear of flying until I was in my 20’s. It never really bothered me to the extent that I had to put coping mechanisms in place to help me. Don’t get me wrong every time I got on an airplane I had my escape and rescue plan sorted for me and my parents should anything go wrong. And this was meticulous. Like I would sit at the window seat if I could (though my parents would try to insist I sit in the middle, their way of keeping my safe), yet by me sitting in the window seat I believed that should the plane crash I could protect my parents from the windows shattering ( I was very young). But this was just like an everyday thought for me, it was instinct over fear. If that makes sense.

You see most of our fears and phobias develop when we are younger. They can be learnt from those who are close to growing up or can develop during adult life due to various events and happenings. And quite often we understand they are irrational, but that doesn’t stop them manifesting in an almighty catastrophe in our minds. You see I learnt my fear of flying from an ex partner. They had such a HUGE fear of flying, just seeing a plane on the TV would cause them to feel anxious. And when you spend several years with that person, you begin to pick up their habits. And so voila maybe age 25 my flight anxiety really started to kick in. 

And boy is it a shitter!

Nervous Flyer Tips: The Best Guide

So having had this fear for around three years I quickly learnt that I needed to discover some travel tips to help me carry on going on trips. As after everything I had gone through this was NOT going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back! 

Therefore I did my research, I spoke to people, I explored it through my counselling sessions, and over time have come up with a great bank of techniques to help myself and all anxious flyers. As after all, the whole reason I am doing this travel blog is to help you. You wonderful and amazing person 🙂

Now we have established that flight anxiety can come in all shapes and sizes as with everything, it is simply not one size fits all! Different people suffer from it differently. So I have come up with a list here that will help and guide you through your air travel journeys. 

Turbulence 

What exactly is Turbulence? Turbulence is incredibly normal and is something that can happen during anyone’s flight. In big posh terms It’s:

Unsettled air, which can be caused by many things such as weather, a change in winds etc. 

In my Terms:

It’s really fucking scary, makes the plane shake, sometimes the lights flicker and me to be in my seat hyper ventilating, looking for a flight attendant who can bring me a large glass of red. 

But when it happens the pilots will always warn you that it’s coming. This is to try and ease your anxiety and assure you everything is under control.

So let’s start preparing at home, before we even get to the airport when the little seedlings of flight fear are just starting to creep into our minds. Get on the internet and check what the weather is going to be like when you fly. Although at first this may seem crazy, because why would you want to know in advance if it’s going to be horrendous it is always better to be prepared. There is actually a website called TurbulenceForecast which can give you a heads up. 

As being aware that it could happen, allows you to be more in control of the situation. You can prepare, it won’t be as big of a shock when it does happen because you’ve known for awhile now. Therefore when your mind starts to do that shitty red lights flashing siren screeching routine you can be like:

Yeah Boo I already knew this was going to happen, now can I get back to enjoying my wine please. 

Or that is the hypothetical dream anyways …. And is a way these nervous flyer tips can make it happen!!

Pick a seat any seat

Image by LSD for society - Nervous flyer tips
Image by LSD for Society

Now Again this is all about personal preference. I personally always want to be in the middle of the plane with an aisle seat. As there I feel more centred, I can always look up and down the plane and see what is going on. It’s almost like I need to feel a little in control. I am aware I have fuck all control of the situation, and that is what my nervous mind feeds on. Therefore if I can trick it in to thinking otherwise then I’m off to a good start. 

I remember on one of my flights to Bali and one back the people at the check in desk felt sorry for me travelling alone. I guess my cool, independent woman vibe was getting overthrown by my innate fear of something bad about to happen. And so they very kindly upgraded me to seats with extra leg room. Now in any other situation this is such a lovely gesture and I was so grateful for their kindness. But actually it just meant all 5”1 of was in a middle seat with lots of room so that if I felt anxious I couldn’t scrunch myself up into a tiny ball and feel more safe. 

You see the more anxious and scared I feel the more I want to curl up in a ball. This also transfers to flying as well. I will get my feet up on my seat, hug my knees close to my chest and wait for the shittiness to pass. Instead on both flights I tried desperately hard not to fall asleep on the men’s shoulders either side of me. And proceeded to tell them both how scared I was of flying and to not worry if I seemed weird haha.

Therefore pick a seat that will ease your anxiety, whether it’s a window seat where you can see what is going on, a middle seat so you can just be in your zone or an aisle seat so you can be a nosey Nora like me. Yes with some airlines you have to pay extra for this, but it really is worth it, if it allows your mind to rest.

Distraction Pack

Now I’m going to be honest I discovered this from a friend who was trying to make a  pack for her daughter, to help ease her boredom on a flight to Cuba from the UK. And I was like:

HOW HAVE I NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS?!

It’s genius! So for every trip I have I always make myself a distraction pack. It’s one of my best nervous flyer tips as it is so simple, cheap and easy. I get so excited when making mine as it means I’m going on a trip. In mine I  have:

A Notebook – so I can write down all my thoughts and journal as I go

A crossword book – I love crosswords and can really lose myself in them

A word search book – Again I absolutely love them and they require my full attention, so I forget my negative thoughts

A stress ball – So I have something to play with in my hands and squeeze when I’m nervous

Marbles – I love the feel of them, and when I am becoming quite anxious I can get hot and flustered. Marbles are quite cool so I can calm myself down by literally moving them in my hands and then cool me down 🙂

A deck of cards – So I can play cards games with people or Solitaire by myself

But you can put whatever you want in yours! I know people who put Sudoku books in theirs (I am rubbish at these), lego so they can focus on building mini lego projects, colouring books, jigsaws art books so they can sketch their surroundings, or write poems, handheld devices to play games on again I’m useless at most games but I did play a mean Frogger when I was younger!

A Lot of it is stuff we used to do when we were children but forgot about as we grew up. And the first time I heard a friend doing a boredom pack for her child. I honestly questioned how I had never transferred that into helping me with my nervous flying tips.

Top Tip: a lot of airports won’t let you take PlayDoh through. Now I know this can help a lot of people, me included, but they cannot be taken through so it’s not worth the risk. 

Make Sure you’ve got a good book

Image by Studio media - Nervous flyer tips
Image by Studio Media

I love reading, it calms me so much and actually helps me sleep easier! There really is nothing better than getting settled down with a good book and getting transported to this new world, following the characters on their way. This is a brilliant nervous flyer tips as it’s another way to help keep you distracted when you’re on your way to and in the airport and then when you’re on the plane itself. 

Now I always make sure I have a couple of books with me as there is nothing worse than running out half way through. I’m also a lil bit old fashioned and prefer having a physical book in my hand. Therefore if I don’t have any books on my read least I will just go and raid a charity shop’s bookshelves, pick some up and off I go. Though you don’t have to have a physical book, you can have kindle, which means you can even have the book on your phone! Or if you prefer to listen to something then purchase a couple of books on Audible. I listen to the Harry Potter series every night written by Stephen Fry which are amazing. And collectively there is over 127 hours worth of listening there! So you’ll be set for a fair while!

Essentials oils babe

Essential oils are used for so much. I first came across them when I was 13 years old working in a hippy shop and we used to put them in the mop water so that it smelled nicer! A simple introduction to them really! Whereas as I’ve got older I’ve realised their benefits and uses are HUGE. In baths, for perfume, for emotional support there is so much. Which admittedly can be quite overwhelming. So here is a useful and simple guide to help if it is your first time. 

Now essential oils usually come in a small bottle of around 10ml so plenty small enough to fit in your clear plastic liquids bag, in your hand luggage. Therefore you’ve always got them to hand should you need them. Now I should have a share in Lavender essential oils with the amount I use, whether it’s on my pillows, in my nightly body moisturiser, in my baths etc. I use it A LOT. And this is my go to for my flight anxiety, as it helps soothe my nervous energy and also helps me sleep.When I’m feeling anxious I will put a couple dabs on my wrists, behind my ears and on my chest. I will also have a little hanky that I douse in the stuff and will smell that whenever I can feel my pulse racing and my hands starting to get clammy. My advice would be to find which one you think smells good (as if it’s not nice you’re not going to want to use it) and look at the ones which you will find the most helpful with their properties. 

Make a playlist

As with a lot of my advice when it comes to travelling I always recommend having headphones with you. To cancel out sounds if a crowded place gets too loud, to listen to your google maps so you don’t stand out as a tourist or just to shut the world out and listen to music. You can make these on spotify, amazon music go old school with a CD mixtape ( I used to love them). And give it a title whether its ‘calming music for flight anxiety’ or ‘fuck flight nerves’ what ever is best for you. But make sure it is music you are familiar with and that evokes calming and happy emotions within you. 

The last thing you want is some surprises on there that are going to undo all this hard work you’ve put in to ensure you have a calm and relaxing flight. For example Enrique Iglesias song ‘Hero’ for many is a beautiful love song with a nice relaxing guitar in the background. For me it is a horribly sad music video that used to make me cry uncontrollably every time I saw it terrified of my loved ones being killed in a motel carpark …. And everytime I hear the song it brings back that fear.

So pick your songs carefully. You got this lovely!

Tell the flight attendants 

So you’ve done all the prep, you’ve got some great strategies in place and have got some really great nervous flyer tips! 

Amazing! 

Welldone!

You’ve got through the airport and are now on the plane. Tell the bloody flight attendants of your fear. They won’t think you’re silly, they won’t laugh at you, they won’t do any of those things your mind is telling you they will. 

IT IS LYING!

They deal with nervous flyers all the time and it is their job to keep you safe, happy and to enjoy your experience with them. The best experience I ever had was with Cathay Pacific on my flight from Bali to Hong Kong. I had never heard of their airline before and booked my flight two days before, as the earthquakes in Bali had gotten quite bad and the ceiling of my accommodation nearly came in and I freaked. We experienced some of the worst turbulence of my life. I was gripping on to the arms of my seats, hyperventilating and crying. 

But because at the beginning of my flight I had mentioned to the flight attendant about my mental health, one gentleman in particular checked on me as often as he could. He stood and spoke with me, talked me through my thoughts and made sure I was as comfortable as could be. He was an absolute angel and I was so grateful for him. Also the man opposite me had heard me express my fears to the flight attendants and so started to speak with me. He did all he could to keep my mind distracted. He was amazing, and was so kind. We chatted, had a few drinks together and what could’ve been a really traumatic experience for me. Ended up being a really nice memory of a stranger’s kindness. 

Look at faces

Graffiti in Krakow Poland - Nervous flyer tips
Graffiti work in Krakow Poland

Now this might seem a bit of a random one to include in my nervous flyer tips but bare with me. You see as someone who has suffered with mental health the majority of her life I can assure you I panic about everything! But I have also learnt to ask questions when I feel worried, so that people can talk me through my worries and offer their help, support and advice. And a lot of professionals, colleagues, friends even that I have encountered have often said to me (after being constantly bombarded by my questions):

If I look worried, you should be worried. If I don’t then you’re fine. 

And I have transferred this skill to flight attendants, and fellow passengers. As If I’m freaking the fuck out, I look at those around me to see if anyone else is worried. Or if I’m freaking for no apparent reason. And it does really help me, as it allows me to reassure myself without actually having to talk to anyone. As when you’re feeling anxious it can be so difficult to talk to people. As your mind is being so loud, that you can’t always comprehend what you are feeling, therefore trying to then 

And most importantly …. BREATHE

Now I know this sounds obvious as it’s something we do every second of every day naturally without even thinking about it. That is my this is one of the most important nervous flyer tips. But let’s face it when we become anxious, or worried or any negative feelings, our heart starts to beat faster, which means our pulse starts to quicken and so does our breath. Not only does our breath start to become quicker it also becomes shallower which can then cause us to feel faint , sick and have knots in our stomach. The list is endless and as always is totally subjective to you.

So when you start to feel like this, firstly use the find 5 things method

5 things you can see

4 things you can touch

3 things you can hear

2 things you can smell

1 thing you can taste

This will immediately change the focus of your attention and forces your mind to switch its thought path. Whilst doing this breathe in for:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Hold 2, 3, 4, 5

And breathe out 

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Do this at the same pace each time. Each time in through the nose out through the mouth. If it helps have his on a little piece of paper or card that you can pull out as a visual reminder for you to always have to hand should this happen. Because as well all know during the midst of panic and worry there’s very little space for rationalised thoughts. Therefore if you have something you can quickly grab to tell you what to do, it could really help!

You got this lovely – Just use these Nervous Flyer Tips

I honestly hope that all my nervous flyer tips can help you. As it is my goal to ensure that YOU can travel as much as you want and not let shitting mental health get in the way. There are so many ways to help keep it at bay, and by having these available I hope it will inspire you for your next flight. Because you are so much stronger than your mind, and you need to keep working at it and keep it in check. Because Damn you are the boss of your mind, it is not the boss of you. 

I have faith in you, I believe in you, and I am here to support you.

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