When Amelia Earhart said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, she wasn’t thinking about nervous flyers.
At the time writing this post, it is a glorious Friday morning and although 5th Piano Concerto ‘Emperor‘ is playing in the background, and the sunlight caresses the white kitchen walls while I wait for my coffee to be ready, I can’t feel any serenity. The reason? I am taking a flight to London in about seven hours, and the mere thought compresses my stomach. Yes, you guessed it: I am a nervous flyer.
For starters, I should probably clarify I am not one of the most severe cases ever. To me, the main trigger is boarding alone, rather than the flight itself. Hence, I only experience this kind of anxiety in the few occasions I need to travel all by myself.
Over the years, I tried different techniques to relieve my stress levels but since most of the international flights in Europe last two-three hours tops, I never took the time to search for real solutions. Last Winter though, Sebastian and I booked an eleven hours trip to Tokyo, and I immediately knew I would need to find a fix to make it sane to the other side of the globe.
It was a long process and it took a good deal of trial and error but at the end of the day, I managed to figure out a bunch of relaxation techniques which can make a difference in the way you experience a flight. In all honestly? It was enlightening. Just imagine to be able to block most of the negativity and reduce it to the extent that you are able to be functional again.
But how do you do that?
These are my five tips to get over flight anxiety.
1. Embrace a simple but revolutionary idea: you are NOT in charge
And do you know what? That is totally alright.
Our natural instinct is trying to control any situation. If by any chance you are a control freak (hello there old soul mate!), you will have a hard time on a plane surely. Try something new instead: follow the air crew instructions, take a deep breath and accept you are not in control – not here, not now. Embracing the chaos might sound like a silly cliché, but I find it truly comforting.
2. Instead of thinking about the flight duration as a punishment, treat it as a well-deserved rest
I know, it is difficult to see any in-board time as a luxury when the eternal promise of a noisy seat neighbour is floating on the air like a threat to your mental integrity – but please, believe me when I tell you that it is all about your own attitude. Don’t reach for your work laptop or tablet. Instead, use the time to eat something delicious (avoiding crappy tourist class food can be a good idea) or watch a nice film on your laptop. Catching up with some beloved podcasts is a personal favourite of mine but you should be able to find something to treat yourself.
3. Block as much unpleasant ambient noise as possible
Children crying, repetitive coffee announcements from the crew, motor noise… Personally, I can’t stand those. Since I was a child, I suffer from a light form of Mishophonia that can be aggravated on stressful situations, so blocking any unpleasant sound is a must. Last year, I started packing some headphones on my cabin luggage and so far, it has proved life-changing. Ear plugs are a great option if you wish to go for a cat nap too.
If you are a frequent flyer though, you might consider investing in some noise-cancelling headphones. My current best-loved are the Beat Studio 3 Wireless Headphones (they are foldable, wireless and they offer up to 22 hours of battery), but there are plenty of options out there.
4. Get yourself comfortable
It could be argued that long flights main issue is the lack of comfort: limited personal space and sturdy seats are a terrible match for sure. Nonetheless, there are a few tricks you can use to improve your rest. Have you ever thought of spending some cash on a memory-foam travel pillow, or even an Ostrich Pillow model (my own choice)? Wrapping yourself in a nice, soft cardigan or jumper is also a good idea since it will help you to sleep better if needed.
5. When things go wild, turn to rescue remedy
It might be anything from a lavender soothing spray to a luxury spa hand-cream. Take some time and search for a few products which essence and consistency will immediately make you feel safe and relaxed. Then prepare an emergency kit and pack it in your cabin luggage. In case you are curious about it, I personally trust Rosa Centifolia Hand Treatment Cream and La Creme Main Texture Riche to make me feel in a spa when travelling but any nice scent product will do.