We can all agree that the pictures above look beautiful. Taken in Fiji, Australia and Paris-each of these photos means a lot to me and reminds me of an exciting time in my life. However, each picture also reminds me that I can do things that I find extremely difficult and that these things are so worth overcoming.
I first remember feeling a strong sense of fear when flying when I was about 12 years old. For weeks leading up to my holiday, I couldn’t sleep properly and would have intense nightmares about plane crashes. I felt more and more sick with every passing day and once I was at the airport I felt so sick that I could hardly function. In that way, not much has changed at all in the past 10 years. I still get a seriously intense feeling of anxiety even thinking about planes and this brings me to full-blown tears and immense panic every time I have to fly.
It may seem very bizarre for someone who feels like this to want to travel; however, for as long as I can remember, I have also been someone who doesn’t want to lead a standard (boring) life. I love the idea of visiting new places and exploring new cultures and I’m always seeking out adventures.
In this way, my personality is very contradictory and I spent almost a year whilst at university contemplating whether I could overcome one side of my mind, to fulfil another.
Although in some way this could count as cheating- I visited my GP who prescribed me diazepam (for flying only). Diazepam (or valium) affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with anxiety (according to the internet). I tried it for the first time on a flight to Greece in summer 2015 and although I still felt shaky, anxious and terrified for much of the flight- it seemed to have a much calmer edge than usual and although my brain was still full of scary thoughts of crashing planes and hijackings- my physical body felt pretty normal.
Since then, I have used diazepam on every single flight I have taken and it is definitely the main thing that has made a massive difference to my experiences of flying, allowing me to reach places that I would have thought were physically impossible for me just a few years ago.
If you feel that your fear of flying is serious and you’re struggling to manage it, I’d definitely recommend seeing your GP as this was life changing for me.
Though the diazepam is my biggest saviour- I still get anxious thoughts and I have found that the best way to deal with them is to create a routine and set of rules for every time I fly.
Firstly, I need to have a lot of distractions. I take plenty of books and I make sure that I have plenty of programmes downloaded on my iPad or laptop plus a pack of cards if I’m travelling with someone.
On the theme of distractions; a relaxing playlist is an absolute necessity for me. Listening to the same small playlist of chilled out songs every time is really helpful. I also listen to the same song on repeat throughout take-off (my least favourite bit) every time I fly. Hold On by Wilson Phillips is my take-off song as the lyrics remind me that you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone or your life will stay the same forever. A pretty good message!
If distractions are failing me and turbulence hits, I like to have an eye mask and earphones and earplugs so that I can block out any noise, close my eyes tightly shut and pretend that I’m on a bus or somewhere else where bumps seem less scary.
I also always take a big scarf which doubles up as a thin blanket. The feeling of having a blanket around your shoulders for some reason is very psychologically comforting and makes me feel much safer- which is really irrational, as a little blanket isn’t going to save me if the worst happens!
Alongside the aforementioned sleep mask, earplugs and blankets- I am always equipped with sleeping pills as sometimes the best way is to just knock yourself out for most of the journey. With this in mind- super comfy clothes are an absolute must and bras are a straight no go!
If sleep isn’t happening or it’s a short flight then I close the window in the hope of forgetting where I am and order a cup of tea as nothing calms down a British person more effectively (or a large glass of red- or 5- depending on the severity of my fear on the day…).
I like to collect logical quotes leading up to the flight which I just store in my head and repeat in my mind if I can feel myself freaking out such as the classic ‘it’s safer than travelling in a car’.
I always take a little bag of essentials such as tissues, ibuprofen and hair bobbles as feeling well equipped helps me to worry less. Other things that help me to relax are the Deep Sleep Stress Less spray by This Works- a lovely lavender scented spray which also is great for helping you sleep and a rescue remedy throat spray which I’m sure only has a psychological effect but it feels helpful in some way!
It’s also important to me to make sure that I’m fully prepared for the airport so that nothing can knock me off my stride. Always check in online way in advance to make sure you’re seated with your companion, have all your liquids in a travel-safe bag, have all devices fully charged, check baggage limits and weigh your cases beforehand and always have your passports and boarding passes in an organised location.
Being prepared also means arriving super early for me. Feeling rushed stresses me out more than anything so I make sure I have tonnes of time to get to the airport and tonnes of time at the airport to browse duty free and I usually buy a little present from me to me to cheer myself up.
I promise you that all of these tiny things come together to make a massive difference and hopefully these tips may be helpful if you suffer from a fear of flying too- I’m always astounded by the amount of people who agree with me whenever I bring it up.
And if all of this fails, try to be kind to yourself and remember that it’s not your fault. You are incredibly brave for doing the thing that scares you the most and that in itself is a big deal- however many tears and tantrums it takes you to get there.