For someone who hates to fly, I find myself on an awful lot of airplanes.
Whether it’s traveling to see family, friends, seeing new places or traveling for work, last year I found myself on a plane about once a month. We just booked our plane tickets to Italy for our trip this spring, so I’m officially starting to dread the flight. Yep, I’m a nervous flier.
I know the facts. Regardless, when I get in that tin can with wings I kind of freak out. So like any sane person, I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms. I’ve looked around online for tips on being a more relaxed flier, but I haven’t found much. So, hopefully this will help the others out there like me!
Gimme the aisle
While you may not always have the first choice of your seating, determine what seating arrangement you prefer. I’m an aisle girl. I shut the window if I’m stuck by one. I’d prefer an aisle seat towards the back of the plane rather than a middle seat towards the front! Like most people, I try to avoid the back of the plane – typically it’s louder (engine noises) and a bit bumpier.
Eat something time-consuming:
This helps me focus on something that isn’t a book or a screen. The variation helps. While most people eat IN the airport, I’ve learned that I like to save my food for the plane. Something cold, like a salad, is my preferred food of choice. The crispness of the lettuce, and cutting up various vegetables or chicken require a lot more effort than cramming a bag of chips in your mouth. Plus it’s healthier and doesn’t leave you with greasy fingers and in need of a mint.
Dress the part
I don’t swear sweatpants on planes, mostly because it makes me feel grubby. I try to dress comfortably, but especially try to wear easily removable shoes with warm socks. I also usually bring a scarf with me. Airplanes can be a bit cold, but I don’t always want to wear a bulky top (feeling even more squished into my seat).
Getting through a flight is all about pre-occupying myself with something else. I was recently on a flight next to two people who had no music, no books, no computers, no magazine and no entertainment! (Here’s looking at you Delta). I am the opposite. Over-stimulation city. I bring magazines, books, e-books, my iPod and usually print out work articles and go through them with a highlighter.
Also, in my opinion, this is not the time to be high and mighty with your entertainment choices. I usually like to get into something easy and entertaining, not tedious. (Example: Harry Potter for plane rides. Save heavy Dostoyevsky for when I’m safe on the ground.)
Rock the Beats
I always bring my iPod – Drowning out the sounds of the plane helps me. If I don’t want music, I usually leave the earbuds in anyways to drown out the sound. Earplugs work too. Music with slower beats or easier listening is what I choose – no need to get my pulse racing.
Eat Pray Love
I’m definitely a pray-er on airplanes. There are key moments when I panic the most (like take-off). Usually I will pick one person during takeoff and focus on praying for them. While I usually say a quick prayer for the plane ride as well, it doesn’t help me when my prayers focus on the plane – I’m trying to get my mind OFF of the plane!
Where everybody knows your name
I always listen for the pilot’s introduction over the speakers. For some reason knowing their names helps put real people in charge of the plane and makes me feel not so out of control.
I also frequently look at the flight attendants. If things are feeling a little bumpy, I look first to the attendants. If they are just chatting or serving food, it reminds me that the bumps are NORMAL. Someone once told me you need to think of the turbulence like potholes in the road. It just happens. I’ve also read to close your eyes and imagine you are on a bus. Surprisingly, the sensation is the same!
Have a chant
Maybe this sounds crazy, but I have a particular song I sing in my head when things get bumpy. Somehow it just became my go-to. It helps to ground my nerves when I’m feeling panicky – so I sing it at the top of my lungs… in my head that is. : ) Again, it’s about distraction until your nerves calm down.
To my fellow nervous fliers, you have all my sympathy. I hope some of these tips help you on your next flight. Obviously I’m not a therapist, psychiatrist or anything of the sort – these are simple techniques that help me – a nervous flier.
What do you do to preoccupy yourself on an airplane?