That could mean a million things to any one person. So, here’s my question – how do you deal with the thing that most scares you?
I’m claustrophobic. As a child I hated riding in elevators so much – even looking at them made me nervous – so I would walk however many flights of stairs it took to reach my destination. My father was some kind of patient. That fear ultimately manifested itself in flying and a couple times I had panic attacks in really crowded or small places. Most recent, semi-embarrassing time was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when a security guard could see I was visibly shaken from, well being in a small place. Sometimes I have no advance warning, sometimes a situation is okay until it’s not.
Riding in elevators is not my favorite thing to do, but I deal with it. Flying was something that got to be such a huge fear that I couldn’t think about booking airline tickets without getting sick and just seeing a plane – especially the inside of one – on television was enough to make me walk out of the room. When I needed to fly I took prescribed sleeping pills or took the train. Since I couldn’t stay on sleeping pills for two back to back long flights I missed out on some great trips. A year ago I had had enough of the fear. I had not traveled to so many places I wanted to while my friends kept going on these amazing adventures to Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia…
My frustration had outgrown my fear when I finally contacted my travel agent and booked my first trip to Africa. I was still going to take a sleeping pill, but that was just going to get me through a bulk of the flight. All the days before and hours getting to and sitting in the airport I would be wide awake. So, I came up with a sort of plan. I got a fun book, some fashion magazines, put together a great mix on my iPod, bought a cute jacket for the plane, and read all about the places I’d be going and looked at tons of pictures of those places. A week before my flight I started having mini panic attacks, but in truth the only thing scarier to me at that point than getting on the plane was not getting on the plane. There was no way I wasn’t going. And I did and I was fine and I’ve flown long flights again and again. I still take a sleeping pill when I get on a long flight and still get the jitters, but now I know I can do it and I do. Confronting my greatest fear meant taking it head on – well sort of, I’ve still got those pills.
Buddha said “When you embrace the enemy, he cannot beat you.”
Tips for flying if you have a fear of it – learned from personal experience:
Don’t drink caffeine or have sugar 8 hours before your flight.
Focus on the destination and what you are going to do when you get there, who you’ll hang out with, where you will eat, etc.
Consider a sleeping aid, personally I think it’s healthier than alcohol. Talk to your doctor even if you are considering getting an over the counter aid.
Invest in a neck pillow. On longer flights some airline companies hand out eye masks and socks, those are great additions.
Don’t wear sweats, dress nice – put some effort into it – act the part of a calm carefree flyer even if you’re not. Heck, get a manicure a couple days in advance.
Remind yourself flying is way safer than driving. No need to look at statistics, just know it.
Check out a map of the interior of the plane so you are prepared in advance for how big or small it is. Better to have your minor freak out a day or two before than upon arrival.
Read some of those travel beauty, what to pack for long flights articles. Focus on – again – acting the part of the calm, carefree flyer.
Try to sit closer to the front of the plane or between the wings, my experience has been turbulence affects you less there and the plane doesn’t seem as confining as in the back.
Be proud of yourself for doing this, once you’re strapped in and the plane has taken off you’ve committed to it so be prepared and stay calm – breathe.