wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Flying anxiety, plane and simple…

After a short holiday in Italy, I’m back in the UK. I spent five days in the shade drinking wine and eating pasta, (I don’t tan and I love carbs).

To put it delicately, I’m not what you would call a confident flyer. Yes I realise that I have more chance of being in a car/train/horse crash.. but that really doesn’t help when you’re 30,000 feet in the air listening to the deafening sound of the engines.

Me: Oh my God what was that sound?
Dan: It’s nothing babe.
Me: Seriously I can feel the plane shaking
Dan: Calm down, everything is fine.
Me: How the f**K would you know? You’re sat next to me!

Basically, if the pilot himself assured me that everything was normal, then I’d believe him.. But then I’d also want to know who was flying the bloody plane while he was chatting to me!

Airports in general are catalysts for stress and anxiety. The bright lights, loud noises and constant rush of people. Unless you’re lucky enough to be travelling BA or Virgin, then you’re treated like cattle from the moment you arrive. Get in this MASSIVE queue, make sure all toiletries are in a see through plastic bag, take your passport out of the case (because that saves a lot of time apparently). “Did you pack the case yourself madam?” What kind of a question is that?! “Well it’s funny you should mention that, because around 11pm last night a man wearing a balaclava knocked on the door and offered to pack my suitcase.”

Don’t even get me started on the security checks. I worry that I’ve somehow packed a knife without realising it.. or that I have a bag full of cocaine. The guilty look on my face automatically means that I get searched.

The noise is deafening when we board the plane. Everyone blocks the aisle by packing cases in the overhead compartments.. DO IT LATER YOU IDIOTS! I just want to find my seat. Ironically once I’m in my seat I want to get up again. As the plane gathers speed I think my heart will explode and I squeeze Dan’s hand to the bone. All I can think is “we’re going to crash, I’m going to die” on loop. Not a single rational thought can penetrate this cycle. On a previous occasion I burst into tears during a patch of turbulence and when the nice gentleman to my left asked whether I was ok I shouted, “No I’m not! I can’t handle this!” And sobbed in his face. The poor guy had to talk to me about Greek mythology for an hour before I calmed down, (yeah I’m really cool I know).

In a nutshell it’s the lack of control that I don’t like, or the ‘not knowing,’ which is true of many anxiety provoking situations. If unchecked the brain has free reign to fantasise about the worst possible outcome. The fantasy is always worse than the reality.

So how can we improve this? Well like many situations, the key is preparation. If you do nothing then nothing will change.

Here are a few tricks that I’ve picked up. Some of them might seem obvious, but they help.

  1. Make a list of everything that you need to do beforehand and work your way through it. Passport, Euros, packing, airport transfer. Then once each task is completed LEAVE IT. If you put your passport in your bag then it’s there.. checking it ten times will only feed your anxiety!
  2. Wear comfy clothes. Especially if you’re travelling for more than two hours. Bring a jumper too as the air con on planes can be bloody freezing!
  3. Buy at least two magazines, a book and some kind of game. Music is good too. I like to make a relaxing playlist beforehand.
  4. Positive visualisation. Now this will sound incredibly naff, but give it a go. Did you know that negative thinking can actually trick your brain into believing that the scenario has already happened? This will then trigger negative emotions… and you’ll generally just feel rubbish. So why don’t we flip this by using a simple exercise. I want you to close your eyes (I know lame, but do it) and imagine the flight being wonderful. Imagine exactly how you will spend your time and how excited you are about going on holiday. This happy daydream will release positive emotions. It will communicate to your subconscious that everything is ok and provide a mini confidence boost.
  5. If all else fails then have a few large gin and tonics!

I would also like to give a quick shout out to a special lady in my life. She recently plucked up the courage to go on a plane after a five year gap. Despite being very scared, she faced the fear and did it. I’m so proud of her. 🙂

Categories: Anxiety

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12 replies

  1. Oh, Claire! I feel your pain – and this post made me laugh out loud.
    I recently needed to fly to Scotland for a family funeral and it was the first time I’d flown since a deeply embarrassing meltdown on a flight to Jersey about twenty years before. It took all my skills and the support of my, now adult, children but I DID IT! (I blogged about it afterwards, because it was such a Big Deal!).
    Pasta in the shade sounds wonderful – who knows, I might manage Italy next…

  2. perfect timing for covering flying, im just starting to feel the anxiety about flying over the summer building. im certainly going down the distraction route, magazines, games, music but its any delays that really escalate my feeling of being out of control in airports…but this post was brilliant as usual for making me feel im not alone, thank you!

  3. This really made me smile! Great descriptions, I especially love the one “did you pack yourself?” Thanks for the post and helpful hints.

  4. I’m not sure I was supposed to laugh, but I did. In recognition. If I’m being a bit pedantic, what always helps mr when going away is to make a list, as you say, then physically cross each thing off, so I know I have checked that I have my passport, the necessary number of pants and all that 😉 one more thing….I read the most amazing book recently with the not so optimistic title of “Reasons to Stay Alive ” by Matt Haig. It is however one of the most life affirming, positive books I have read of any genre and I demolished it in 2 days. Very briefly, it’s written by a guy who had a breakdown in his early 20’s and catalogues his road to recovery.
    Claire, I think you would particularly associate with it as writing was his redemption. I’ll not quite promise to refund anyone’s purchase who isn’t happy with it, but if you are reading Claire’s blog then I reckon you will love it.

    Hugs and all that stuff

    Morgan

  5. Aircraft are machines that make noises. When they make noises it means they are working properly. The rational part of you must know that it’s when you’re in one and they don’t make any noise at all that you’re in trouble.

    Print that out, laminate it and take it with you next time…

  6. Hi Claire,

    Slightly off topic – I just read about the Mind Media Awards and saw that they have a blogger category… http://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/mind-media-awards/

    If you haven’t already heard about it, I definitely think you should enter your blog!

    Jo xx

  7. Hi Clair,

    Hope you’re well!

    Yes, this is definitely one for me 😔! I HATE FLYING!

    Everything you mention above is what I go through but I do fight it, I sit on flights and go on holiday but I’ve never travelled alone 😢! Next step for me is to travel alone and just get on with it!

    I’m glad you enjoyed your holiday!

    Ayesha

  8. This one’s a classic!! I always make sure that I get an aisle seat and take my shoes off to make myself more comfortable. Worked for me so far, in august I’m gonna be on a plane again for the first time since my panic attacks returned in full force so we’ll see how it goes then.

    PS: A big sympathy bonus for the greek mythology; )

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