I spent sleepless anxious nights, turning from side to side imagining the goodbyes, the plane ride and what would be waiting for me on the other side of the world every single time I knew I was flying somewhere.
It all began at the age 23, when I moved permanently to the states and had to go back and forth between Lebanon and California at least twice a year. I hated goodbyes. I worried about how I was going to feel on the plane. I was afraid of dying alone. I hated vulnerability. I wanted to look strong leaving my family and my home in Lebanon.
The fear of flying took over my body every time I traveled. I didn’t understand it, I didn’t know how to manage it except by taking pills. I felt weak and embarrassed.
In fact, one time I was kicked out of the plane and admitted to the Emergency Room at the airport in Dubai on my way back from my honeymoon in the maldives. I couldn’t bear the idea of being on a direct flight for 16 hours non stop. I was faced by uncertainty. My negative thoughts took a toll on me causing me panic attacks.
What if I die on the plane? What if I get sick on the plane? I feel suffocated and overwhelmed. I am weak. I am not sure if I can do it - These were some of the negative thoughts that often fueled my anxiety and turned the exciting time into drama, illnesses and tears.
After my big incident in Dubai, I knew that it was time for me to truly face this fear. I began studying it and experimenting with it every single time I flew somewhere. My conscious tactics shifted my anxiety instantly most of the time.
Here are 4 major ways that helped me take control over this fear :
1. Being Vulnerable: The moment I talked to my husband about what’s scaring me the most, I felt safe instantly, I felt a huge release from my chest, I felt nurtured. My husband’s support was very nurturing to me of course, but I was also nurturing myself when I accepted and revealed my negative emotions.
Acknowledge what’s in your heart. Find someone you trust to be yourself with (coach, therapist, husband, friend ect..) and talk openly and shamelessly about your pain, your fears and your thoughts. We all have fears, we’re human. Revealing your deepest emotions is a representation of courage and not weakness.
2. Controlling my surrounding: One of the reasons why so many of us (including myself) fear planes is because we feel that we’re not in the driver’s seat. We’re not in control and we have no idea what the next moment is going to bring.
It’s pretty scary to let go of control and surrender to the unknown. Mimicking my home environment as much as possible was extremely helpful to sooth my emotions. It tricked my mind to feel safe and secure wherever I was.
Ask yourself: what makes you feel home? Do you have a certain blanket that you enjoy? Do you dress up in a specific way? Do you have a favorite mug for your coffee?
Bring things that make you feel comfortable and at home on the plane. This will help you move to a familiar place and get comfortable with your environment. I always bring my personal blanket, my pillow, different medications and I also wear very comfortable clothes that keep me very warm even in the summer time.
3. Changing my story: What story are you telling yourself that could happen when you’re on the plane? Write down your story (writing is very healing) or tell it to someone you trust.
For example my story sounded something like this: I am afraid of getting sick when I am on the plane. If I get sick, then people would be starring at me. I wouldn’t know what to do. The stewards won’t be able to help much. I will embarrass myself. I don’t want people to think I am weak. I will have to wait for hours before the plane lands. I am afraid I won’t be able to last that long. I feel suffocated and hopeless.
Then re-tell or re-write your story in a positive manner – meaning what are the positive possibilities that could happen INSTEAD of the negative one that you were telling yourself. By changing your story, you’re changing your thoughts, you’re affirming the positive story you want to attract into your life, you’re recognizing and using the power of your thoughts to create the story you want for yourself.
Based on the example above: I get on the plane, take my seat, pull out my book, my blanket and pillow. I feel comfortable and happy. I use the plane ride to do things that matter to me, like writing my journal, contemplating, reading a fun story. People around me are relaxed and smiling. The plane ride is smooth and is going by so fast. We land at the new airport and I am energized for spending a good quality time by myself.
4. Asking for what I want: Whatever faith you belong to, bring it with you everywhere you go especially to places that scare you the most. For example, I always bring my rosary in the bag and I write my affirmations on the plane sometimes.
Pray. Ask for what you want. Ask for protection. Write down a list of affirmations in the present tense and bring them with you on the plane. Remember that there’s a higher power watching over you so surrender to God and to the universe.
We can’t control everything in our lives but we can certainly learn to control our thoughts. Working through any fears including your fear of flying is a process. I still go through the tactics I mentioned above when I feel that my negative emotions are taking over. So, be gentle with yourself and take this journey step by step.
What about you? What scares you the most about flying? What have you tried so far to work through this fear? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.