"I'm sitting on my flight home about to take off. Is my heart beating too fast?...What if I can't get out of my seat when I need to?...What if I vomit?...Oh my gosh, I'm going to vomit...I feel so sick...Oh wait, am I just feeling sick because I'm anxious or am I really sick this time?...Ok, don't think about being sick...*Thinks about being sick*...Wow were going really fast...Is it more bumpy than usual?...Are the wheels on properly?... Can people tell I'm anxious?... I need to shop shaking...Stop shaking...Oh, thats making things worse...I feel sick...What if I vomit?...I'm going to catch something...Oh my gosh I can't breathe...Breathe Veronica, breathe... Remember planes are safer than cars...If you're sick it's not the end of the world, it happens to people all the time...You'll never live it down though....You'll be such a nuisance for the cabin crew...Just don't think...Don't think...I feel so dizzy, what if there's something waiting to burst in my brain when we reach altitude?...No your brain is fine.... But how do you know for sure?...Is there a doctor on here?... I hope there is...Only 55 minutes to go...Thats only 11 lots of 5 minutes...Just go five minutes at a time...Thats actually a while...What if I have put something bad in my bag...What if I'm a terrorist and I don't even know about it...That doesn't make any sense... Or does it?...Am I bad?...You haven't done anything bad...You haven't... You know you haven't...You checked your bag 5 times before you left...You should have done that again...How did you get through security then?... This is just your OCD speaking...But what if its not?...Am I bad?...Oh my gosh what if I'm sick...Distract myself...Don't think about flying...Just concentrate on your book...*Thinks about flying*..."
Repeat x100 & insert a few obsessions about opening doors and committing a crime on the plane as well as the accompanying rituals.
From that little intro you can probably see I'm a bit of an anxious flyer. I'm anxious at the best of times so being stuck in a plane isn't exactly my forte. I'm writing this on the plane right now, trying to distract myself. It's funny how situations make you think of things to write. I have been stressed about flying for a while and I don't know where it started. Plenty of panic attacks have happened in the bathrooms of airplanes and in my seat when the sign comes on and I become stuck. Here are 10 things that I find useful to help keep myself calm when flying. As always this is written from personal experience and research and is not the advice of a professional - for that speak to a health practitioner.
- Square breathing- this is one my psychologist taught me. It involves breathing in for four, hold for four, breathe out for four and hold for four. Whilst doing this, use your finger to trace a square on your leg or with your eyes on something in the room - maybe your tray table. I think it's good as it also gives you something to do as well as calming down your breath.
- Grounding exercise - 5,4,3,2,1. This is perhaps my favourite anxiety reducing strategy in all situations. Find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you are looking forward to when your flight lands.
- Mindfulness - describe the people around you. Noting their details of their clothes, their actions and I even like making up stories about the people around me - it's a great game and you can be as imaginative as you like.
- Keep yourself occupied - I quite like audio books - they're a great distraction, as are puzzle & activity books, films, podcasts ( I love Hamish and Andy), your favourite books and a good game on your phone is fabulous especially when you can't concentrate or are going into land - I like one called 1010.
- Try and get a seat that suits you - For me this is an aisle seat. It makes me feel like I can get out more easily and reduce my level of panic! It might not be the same for you but see what works for you. Get there early to reduce the stress of missing the flight and also to get a good seat.
- Hard lollies to suck on - I think this is a great one when you are taking off and landing, as well as if you feel a bit anxious or nauseous throughout the flight. It's a good distraction and also helps with plane ears. My favourite is Sherbet Lemons.
- Comfy clothes - this is especially important especially on long flights. I tend to feel a bit shit and comfortable clothes help when you feel like you've ballooned up in the air. Wear layers to make sure your comfy in any temperature.
- Any meds you need - If you take a regular prescription, make sure you've got some in your hand luggage in case something happens with you baggage. Also if you are prescribed anti anxiety medications, these are great to have too. I often find if I know I've got it, I don't need it - there is comfort in knowing it's there if shit hits the fan. Also, make sure you've got any other sorts of things you might need like pain relief or something for a sore throat as well as tissues, a toothbrush, deodorant and face wipes.
- Food that you know you can stomach when you're feeling anxious and nauseous - I think it's always good to have some healthy snacks on hand and ones you know that you like. It's so important to eat. Everything's worse when you're hangry!
- One of those daggy neck pillows - really helps to get even a little sleep and stops the awful waking up every time your head drops as you relax. You'll feel so much better and will be totally worth it.
Let me know what helps you when you're flying!