how to deal with airplane anxiety from a frequent flyer

This is the first time Luke has flown with me. And, I think it's been seriously eye-opening for him to see just how bad I am at something I do so often-- flying. Anyone who has flown alongside me is privy to the anxiety that overcomes me once it's time to fly. I go from a very relaxed and enthusiastic traveler to someone who is overwhelmed, overly emotional, and stressed the fuck out. 

Anytime I tell people how much I hate to fly, they're always a bit shocked. How can someone who flies so often get such bad anxiety before flights? It's simple really.

Every time I put myself in the sky, I'm trusting the giant metal machine carrying me and heaps of other people won't malfunction, the pilots won't make a human error, and the weather will remain peaceful. And that's just the actual flying part. I have anxieties about the whole process-- making it through customs without hiccups, getting to the airport in plenty of time, and having all my documents in order so that there are no unwelcome surprises. All of this is heightened by the fact that I don't eat while I fly, so my nerves and energy are pretty well shot. 

Despite the anxieties that plague me, I continue to brave the skies because my love of travel outweighs the fears in my head. And, to be fair, it never used to be this way. It was only once I started traveling as an adult, particularly by myself, that I became an anxious flyer. Over time, I've found a way to manage my fears and discomforts. 

Here are a few tips to helpmy fellow anxiety-ridden air-travelers...

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Make a checklist...for everything //

I am a massive list-maker, and it makes sense when you understand the psychological research that shows the benefits behind writing lists and crossing items off them. Having everything on your mind physically written on a piece of paper {or typed in your phone} where you can see what you have to do, what documents to bring, and what you need to pack means it no longer feels like it's up in your head where you might forget it. Before I fly, I make a checklist for my packing {blog post coming!} and a list of all the documentation I need to have with me. 

Triple check your documents //

I was a bit extra nervous for my trip to Cuba. Not only did I check online through the government website that I had everything in order, I called the airline I booked with to make sure there was nothing I was missing. I looked over my 'documents checklist' a week prior to my trip, a few days before I flew, the night before I left, and the morning of. It's excessive. It probably sounds obsessive, but I made it through the immigration process the same day Trump reinstated the embargo, so I was extra glad I had all my ducks in a row. Triple check all of your documents before your flight with your country's immigration site and with the airline. You'll feel better, trust me. 

Try essential oils //

It was during a trip to Sedona, Arizona with Bailey that I was introduced to essential oils. Most people roll their eyes and call it all a massive money grab. Maybe it is a placebo, but it works for me.  Lavender, Chamomile, and Ylang-Ylang are all known for having calming effects. I mix my base oil with Chamomile before I fly so that I'm not "potion-mixing" in the airport or on the airplane. I put tiny, travel-sized tubes of my most relaxing blends in my carry-on. I rub it on my wrists and behind my ears.

Pick your seat //

For me, window seats make me feel most comfortable. I used to sit in whatever seat I was given because I didn't want to be picky or cause a fuss. I realize now, that given the amount of money I spend to fly, I'm entitled to a seat that makes me feel more relaxed. Now, I take the time when booking my flight to select my seat. Some airlines {particularly American domestic airlines} charge extra, but I've found a way to avoid these fees. If you create a FREE login or customer account for the airlines you fly, you are usually given the perk of setting a seat preference and picking a seat free of charge anytime you book through the airline's website with your login or customer ID. I flew from Laos to Thailand to Myanmar and enjoyed window seats all the way. Create a frequent flyer number and utilize all the benefits! 

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Listen to something that distracts you //

At the start of the flight, I find listening to a meditation podcast to be more than a little help in my efforts to tame my anxiety. I like using the BreathSync app to manage my breathing. I've also been told Headspace has a meditation specific for flying! If you aren't into the whole guided meditation thing, try relaxing with music that soothes you or, at the very least, distracts you from take-offs and turbulence.

Avoid caffeine // 

Caffeine enhances the uncomfortable feeling that is anxiety. Brain chemistry, yo! At first, I rolled my eyes at this piece of advice {which I got from a former psych professor}. I mean, coffee is life?! However, after having to cut out almost all caffeine, I have actually noticed a difference. Who would have thought, right? ;) Stick to decaffeinated tea or water and reap the benefits of a less nervous nervous system.

Bring comfort items //

No, I'm not talking about your teddy bear. Though that's cool too I guess {but you'll have to lug it around wherever you're going...}. I actually meant items that will make the trip itself more comfortable. I always have a jacket since airplanes are notoriously cold. I also make sure I bring earbuds that feel good in my ears {so I can listen to my podcasts, and because those you're given by the airline are likely to have been used by some stranger before you}, eco-friendly facial wipes, and my journal {thoughts to paper always feel good}. Bring something that will allow you to freshen up and stay warm so that you aren't physically uncomfortable on top of being mentally stressed. 

Focus on the destination //

On my most recent trip to Laos, I found a steal of a ticket deal. That meant long layovers and long flight times. My tips and tricks help the journey be less stressful, but above everything, I focus on my final destination. Stepping off the plane and seeing my family of friends in New Zealand. Walking out of the arrivals terminal and into the adventure that awaits in Cuba. Seeing a loved one in London. Getting authentic Mexican food in Puerta Vallarta. Meeting up with someone special in Sydney. Changing my mindset to focus on these things allows me to remember why I travel in the first place. 

Every journey, long or short, is worth it in the end. Make a list, check it twice {or three times to be safe}, plug in a podcast, and remember how much nicer it is to spend a couple hours in the air versus days on a bus or weeks on a boat.