If you haven’t already, I suggest reading my first post about this and how my fear developed, which can be found here.
Bringing Me Closer to Flying:
Now, I just need to start off by saying how proud I am of myself. If anyone who has a fear of flying and still gets on a plane and is reading this, you should be proud of yourself. And for those that are not yet ready, but want to one day be ready, you are also included in this ‘proud’ category.
When I suddenly became afraid of flying, I didn’t know what to think. But what I did know was that one day I would go back to soaring in the air.
As I mentioned in my prior post about this, my grandfather passed away and I missed his funeral because it involved me traveling down to the Caribbean and I just couldn’t bring myself to fly. Ever since that day, I became pretty sad and beat myself up. However, I knew that my family would all go down there after one year and have a special memorial ceremony for him and visit his tomb. And for this, I knew I just had to go.
So within the year leading up, I did my homework and I learned that my personal fear of flying could be overcome with just two things: listening to yourself and confidence.
Listening to Yourself:
I knew I was afraid to fly, but I didn’t exactly know of what. And that’s when I had to really have a one-on-one with myself and ponder about it for a while. I imagined myself going through the process of purchasing a ticket, getting to the airport, boarding the plane, being in the air, landing, being at my destination, and then doing it all over again for a return back home. And with all of these steps in mind, I took a piece of paper and wrote down my thoughts and fears. My list included “anxious waiting for flight to board, no doctors on plane, no oxygen, being stuck in the air with the plane not being able to come down to ‘safe’ land quickly or pause for a second for me to recollect myself, turbulence, and being stuck abroad knowing that I needed to do it again.”
So I took this list and stared it down. There it was. All of my fears about this whole flying process on a sheet of paper. I reread it and added things here and there in a different color. I elaborated more as to what I was afraid of, but it was all secondary. And fine, I let it all out. And it felt great. But what I was really focused on was what I wrote initially and the keywords that stood out: “waiting,” “no oxygen,” “safe on land,” “turbulence,” and “do it again.” And that’s what I was afraid of. in a nutshell, but clear as day.
My doctor mentioned that I could be given an anxiety pill, perhaps take a sleeping pill, or drink a glass of wine to calm down my nerves. But I didn’t want to take that route. Personally, I just wanted to get to the root of how I was so capable of flying with no problems before and why my flying habits took a sudden turn.
So I took my list and, within the year, decided to educate myself. I decided to build my confidence. Because we fear things when we don’t feel capable of succeeding, correct? We may have a fear or anxiety because we don’t know what’s going on and we are fearing for the worst, right? Well, that’s what I think, at least. And so, I took this notion and embarked on my own journey of becoming confident and learning more about myself in the process.
At my own pace and with a calm, cool and collected mind, I took each keyword and focused on educating myself.
Sure, this could give nerves to anyone! But I just needed to learn that I had to remain present and breathe through any sort of anxiousness that would arrive. Waiting made me feel nervous because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me in the near future. And that was the problem. I was so focused on the future that I was forgetting about the present. Attending yoga classes regularly (at least two times a week) gave me the confidence to take what was happening now and just ride through it, like a wave. Breathing exercises became my best friend and this was all useful to me all throughout my flying experience.
In the meantime before the flight, I browsed around the shops and had a nice breakfast with other travelers around me. My flight was called to board and off I went into the plane 🙂
I legit thought that I would run out of oxygen on the plane. How could so many people breathe in air, release carbon dioxide, and just be stuck in this thing we call a ‘plane’ that uses recycled air anyway? For sure I thought it was going to run out of it. And that scared me. When I had my panic attack, I kept screaming ‘oxygen’! But, that was all because my breaths were so short that obviously I wasn’t getting enough into my body unless I calmed down and started taking some nice, long deep breaths.
So, instead of knowing that the answer it out there and choosing to not seek it out (the Internet is chock full of studies and information, people!), I went the other route and decided to read up on it. And, interestingly enough, I read up on it a lot. And as it turns out, the way that the air is regulated and the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide available, are actually healthy and falls within standards. If for some reason the pressure of the plane drops, you are given oxygen masks to off-set the deliverance of oxygen floating around the plane and, instead, delivered to you directly.
For more information on the subject, I would suggest taking a peek at this document on the quality of air in the cabin.
Safe on Land
For some reason, I thought that being in the air was where I would be most at risk of an accident happening. Sure there may be things that go wrong, but if the engine goes off, just know that pilots are trained to land safely when this happens during their training. And sure, there are many things we see in the news. But just know that there are millions of flights that happen yearly. And you’re not the only on in the air. Click here to see what is currently flying above your head and in your country right now! See all those white planes? Yup, happening now. LIVE. You’re not the only one. Now imagine how many cars there are… at least double that on the roads! Such a busy, busy world we live in :).
Another thing that made me think that I would be safer on land was the fact that I could go home. But then it occurred to me: I could panic on the plane throughout a flight, get off of it, go back through security, through customs, into a taxi to my destination only to go back and through the same thing… or… I could try to be brave and just enjoy my flight. And enjoy the growth that is happening within me. I needed to not run away and be confident.. so that’s what I am going to do!
Ah, that fear that the plane is going to just spin out of control because it is shaking a bit (or a lot). You know, to be honest, this really scared me, but when I got on the flight back in November, I was actually really looking forward to it! And I actually quite enjoyed the turbulence! (Cue the people shaking their heads and calling me ‘crazy’. It’s okay, my mom thought I was crazy, too). But in all honesty, I was totally OK with it because I did my homework. I read on what turbulence really is. I YouTubed it to death. And I learned.
I always think of the skies as Jell-O now. I cannot succeed in finding the clip, but when I do I will post it here! But the general concept is to imagine a mold of Jello that contains a little plane you are pushing through. Now, if you pat the top of the Jello mold, you are causing ‘turbulence’, but notice that the plane isn’t falling and crashing. The plane decreases about 20-30ft to avoid the wind coming at it at the speed it is at, but the plane doesn’t fall. It’s molded into the air so well, that it’s almost comforting. This helped ease my tension on the subject.
But seriously, just go online and Google or YouTube the heck out it. It is definitely scary at first to learn about these things, but it came more as a comfort to me the more I learned about it. Check out this retired pilot here in the meantime :).
Do It Again
After doing my homework, it didn’t matter to me as much anymore of me fearing the fact that I had to do it again. Pushing something away and avoiding it sometimes makes things worse, as it is being suppressed and only being fed into what you are trying to forget about. So, on that note, I knew that in order for me to be more comfortable with it, I had to do it again. So looked forward to doing it again. You get better at doing things the more you practice, right? A round-trip flight seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to get practice.
After spending a year of researching/educating myself, doing yoga, and imagining myself getting on the plane, I am happy to say that I made it on my flight two months ago and had no panic attack. Was I nervous? Yes, of course, a bit. But was I going to back down and let this thing hold me down for the rest of my life? No way. To some people, flying and traveling is not their priority in life, and that’s OK! It doesn’t have to be. But for me, I felt that this was something that really meant a lot to me and I was going to put in the work so that I could become confident and capable of soaring through the skies.
I made it to my grandfather’s one-year memorial mass down in the Caribbean and I know deep in my heart that he is watching above proud of me. Can I say that I have absolutely no fear anymore? Maybe not. Like I said, it’s all about practicing what you fear. And, let’s be real, a plane ticket isn’t exactly a commodity, so it won’t happen very often. However, when it does, I know that I am confident I can go through the flight. I started small (a 3 1/2 hour flight) and, to be honest, I want to travel far, but those are 8+ hours of being up in the air. Yet, I know that if I put my mind to it and not only listen to myself, but really give myself reasons to be confident, that I could totally do it.
I want to travel to Europe and South America very soon, but one step at a time, right? 🙂
Thank you so much for reading and please feel free to leave your comments below!
Wishing you an easier flight with the confidence you build within yourself and a bravery that may enlighten you to become more fearless that will allow you to do more beautiful things that matter to you.
Knowledge is power,
Disclaimer: I am not a professional in any way on this subject and I shouldn’t be a substitute to any doctor, etc. etc., so please consult with your doctor if you are thinking of trying anything. But, for me, being knowledgeable in the areas that scared me the most was what gave me confidence and what brought me to being able to get on a flight. Disclosure