Parenting & Travel Blog with tips, guides, reviews and honesty about family travel and parenting.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Overcoming Flying Anxiety

You've planned the perfect trip, packed your bags, organized your life at home and you are ready for your vacation!! Whoot! Whoot!

But then it starts to sink in... that feeling in your stomach, or maybe it works its way up to your heart and makes it flutter faster - the feeling of dread. Fear. Regret. Stress. Anxiety. Gulp. Travelling is stressful, and air travel even more so for many people.

In our family, it's one of our children who generally gets anxious about being on a plane (or a train, or a boat or driving over a bridge).  I personally get some bouts of anxiety when turbulence hits on an airplane.  It's all very common and quite normal I'm told by professionals and by all of the zillion articles I've read. But even knowing that it is a normal thing, I still need some strategies for myself and my children to help  cope when travel anxiety kicks in.

1. Know your triggers: The Mayo Clinic  suggests identifying what it is exactly that causes you to feel stressed as the place to start. Is it possibility of an unpredictable event? The fear of something happening beyond your control? Are you claustrophobic or have a fear of heights? Start off by admitting to yourself what it is that makes you feel fearful or stressed about flying (or travelling). With our children we ask them to tell us what it is that makes them feel scared or nervous and sometimes that means them not fully understanding what that may be. Getting them to write it down, draw a picture or whisper it to their favourite stuffie can be a way for them to express their fears. Giving voice to your fears is a way to take the power away from them.

2. What "ifs": go through the worst case scenarios in your brain. It sounds a little morbid but once you've understood what it is that scares you, you ca go through the worst case scenario and come up with what could be a game plan. I have a fear of missing our flight and I get super worked up about it. I get super stressed until I'm sitting on that plane with our seat belts buckled. So what is the worst case scenario? We miss our flight. What happens if we do? We rebook another flight.  It'll end up costing more I'm sure, we may have to think on our feet and find new accommodations until the next flight out (so I have a couple of hotel apps loaded on my phone), and we may end up missing something important back home like an appointment or work, but most things can be rescheduled. Reminding myself all of those things often (but not always!) helps put things into perspective.

3. Breathe: Back to the basics. Take some deep, slow breaths and just breathe. But please don't tell me to stay calm or to relax(ahem - hubby)! Personally I find those words to do the opposite so I try to not use them with my kids ( I said try!). Try counting breaths and focusing on breathing deeply instead.

4. Distraction: When anxiety strikes sitting on the plane have some distractions in place. Load up your personal devices with music, games and movies and TV shows that you love. Have your head phones with you and be prepared to sit down, buckle up and just tune out (or into your device). For our children we make sure we have their favourite TV shows pre-loaded on an I-pad, or some games and activities that are new (to them) and sometimes even little toys and treats that we pull out as surprises on longer flights. I like to save a a tv show or movie or even a book I've been eager to read for the plane so that I ca be as engrossed in it as I can when turbulence hits.

5. Pick your seat: We try to pick our seats at the front of the plane or as close as we can for several reasons. a) usually we can get on the plane amongst the first round of boarders which lets us stow our luggage and settle in and begin our calming down process. b) we can usually get off of the plane first (and sometimes you need to get off that plane ASAP!), c)  you usually can feel less turbulence closer to the front than the back of the plane.

These are just some things that we try to do to help make travelling less stressful. But I'm always looking for more ideas that work! What are some strategies you use to overcome your fear of flying? Please share in the comments!

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