I am told that my ability to sleep on airplanes is a gift and I would say that I agree.
People who hate flying have good reason. It’s a heavy machine, and sometimes it seems like a small miracle that such a heavy thing can fly. For me, I find that being optimistic and dumb helps. I admit to being both, but I quite like to fly.
Things to Love about Flying
1. There are few distractions
The white noise of the engine drowns everything out. It’s a place to gather your thoughts.
2. No matter the weather on the ground, it’s always clear
When I took off from Toronto, it was raining. We fly above the clouds where it is sunny.
3. It’s like you take a seat in a long room and when you leave the room you are somewhere else.
You can get this in an elevator, a car, or a train, but nothing takes you as far so quickly.
If you are flying with a good airline, they will have a personal entertainment system. Be careful of airlines that say that they have one, but then charge you $8 for it (like United). I’m not on United but I have heard complaints.
5. People bring you things
Like meals and drinks. How can you not love people fetching you things?
Ideas for Nervous Flyers
Like most things in life, the key to having ease in it is to have the right attitude when it comes to flying. Here are strategies that may help.
1. Give yourself an activity to do
Movies. Sudoku. Write a real handwritten letter. Bring your laptop and do non-Internet work. Start your novel. Write a blog post.
2. Get a Window seat if you want to sleep, or an Aisle seat if you want to escape faster
The trick to sleeping on the plane is getting a window seat so that you can ball up your jacket and lean on it. In absence of a window seat, buy a neck pillow at the airport so you don’t have to lean on your neighbours. In absence of the neck pillow, lift up the arm rests and lean on it.
Aisle seats however, give you a higher chance of survival but the meal cart may hit your elbow or knees if you fall asleep while in the row.
3. Travel with someone you know
If you know the person sitting beside you, you can sleep on them. Sometimes you don’t even have to know them and they will still be your friend. I was once on a flight where my neighbour woke me up and asked me to hold her hand because she was having an anxiety attack, and I did. After she calmed down, we became friends. How could we not become friends? I was there for her in her hour of need.
4 Read the safety card
Panic kills. Just ask lifeguards at the beach about swimmers caught in rip tides. After hundreds of flights, I still read the safety card as a refresher on what to do in the event of an emergency. Right now I am seated in an exit row and have reviewed the safety card to look at the bracing position. I also studied the exit row door to see where I would grab the handle to pull in and throw that door out. I checked to make sure that I have a life jacket under my seat. I also watched the safety demo.
For me, preparation is key. If something happens and everyone around me is losing their shit, I will take a breath, step forward and do what I need to do because I have read the safety card.
5. Watch movies
If you’re on an airline that makes you pay for movies then it’s worth the money to pay it. On this flight, I am about to fire up either The Hunger Games 2 or The Adventures of Walter Mitty. Hmmm maybe I can hit both.
6. Listen to music, audiobooks, or mediation tracks
If Hop Hop distracts you then go for it. Learn all the words if you can. Me, I like audiobooks, motivational audio from the likes of Wayne Dyer or Tony Robbins, or guided mediation tracks from Tara Brach or Jack Kornfield.
7. Embrace being unreachable
Many of us rarely disconnect. My cellphone is constantly beeping at me and I need to respond. It can be a relief to not be tethered to my phone.
8. Walk around a bit
Prevent deep vein thrombosis by getting up every couple of hours between movies, meals and naps to stretch your legs. It can be an inconvenience to bother your neighbours to get up for you, but it’s good for your legs and helps to prevent a sore bum.
9. Turbulence happens, buckle up baby
Turbulence sucks when you’re in the lavatory. Turbulence, as I understand it, is the result of two air masses that are in opposition of one another. It is often hard to detect with radar. Nervous flyers get panicked during turbulence but the thing to do is to stay buckled up. That way if the the turbulence is violent, you won’t hit your head.
10. Make peace with your own mortality
Who wants to die in an airplane? No one. Is this my time? I hope not. Me, I’ve done the prep, read the safety card, know the brace position, know where my nearest exit is. If I crash, the shrapnel and shock might get me, but not if I can help it. We have a good two minutes to react during a crash and I want to make them a good two minutes. If I die, then maybe it’s my time. I think of this when I think of the girl that survived the San Francisco airline crash just to get run over by an emergency vehicle…maybe it was her time.
Here’s a bonus if all else fails and you don’t think you can use any of the suggestions above.
If All Else Fails: Take medication
Maybe taking a relaxant is the only thing that’s going to help your anxiety. So it goes. In the event of a crash, maybe you’ll be calm enough not to panic and you’ll be awake enough to act.
Ultimately, I hear that flying is the second most safe form of travel (the first is rail travel). Wherever you go on an airplane, I hope you have a safe flight and that you enjoy your trip.
With that said, I am going to watch a movie, take a nap, then post this blog from the hotel in El Salvador when I get an internet connection.