6 Simple Things You Should Tell Yourself When You Feel Anxious On A Plane
I've flown on a lot of planes, a lot of times, over many years. Such is the life of an expatriate drifter. As such, I've lost all my anxiety about flying. At first, when I was young, I suppose I had a slight fear of flying. It could get scary, especially if, say, we encountered turbulence that never seemed to end. Now, even that barely phases me. I'm more concerned about when they'll turn the seatbelt sign off because the altitude makes me need to pee a lot, so turbulence is more of an inconvenience than fear-inducing. Which isn't to say that I don't understand flight anxiety—I certainly do. I feel lucky that flying doesn't especially unnerve me, and since traveling has been such an instrumental part of my life, I feel nothing by sympathy and sadness for the people for whom flying is a genuinely trying task. So as a sympathetic confident flyer, let me share a few simple things you can tell yourself to overcome that anxiety.
Whether you're flying for a long period of time (like I routinely do to visit my native Australia) or a short period of time, you might as well spend that time relaxed and happy rather than biting your nails and having your heart palpitate until your feet are back on the ground. Huge metal objects filled with humans, hurtling though the sky doesn't seem natural, but hey, it's happening, and you're part of it, so you might as well learn to stop worrying and embrace it. It will be a much more pleasant experience for you and the person in the seat next to you if you do. Here are those things I was talking about that you should try saying to yourself next time you're feeling anxious on a flight:
1. The odds are in your favor
Over the past year, it seems like a lot of planes have gone down in a tragic blaze, but in reality, air traffic accidents are on the decline. (It's only the media coverage of the tragic events that has grown to a deafening volume.) 2014 was a very good year. In fact, there were fewer than ten fatal plane crashes in 2014. That's taking in data from more than 30 million commercial flights that year. As CNN reports, the accident rate for flights (including all accidents, not just fatal), was .24 out of 1 million departures. So never fear: The odds of you being in a plane crash are fantastically in your favor, and the odds of you being in a fatal plane crash are even lower, so despair not! It's probably gonna be alright!
2. You do much more potentially fatally dangerous things every day and don't blink an eye
Do you drive or get in cars that someone else is driving? Cross the road? Smoke? Drink? Lay out in the sun? Ride a bike on the road? Know someone who is secretly a murderer? When you're feeling anxious about flying, try to remind yourself there are things that you routinely do on a daily or near daily basis that are even more deadly or dangerous than flying, and that you do those things without a care in the world. Your attitude to flying shouldn't be any different. I get that this is a cliché, but it's a powerful reality.
3. Look for celebrities in first class, because this isn't how they die
I was once on a flight with a co-worker, and Michael Cera and Ashton Kutcher were in first class. We hit some bad turbulence and my co-worker started freaking out. I just looked at him and said, "Don't worry, Ashton Kutcher doesn't die like this." It can be very comforting to tell yourself that a celebrity isn't going down in flames with a bunch of normals.
4. Lose yourself in the movie selection
Distraction is the best form of thought manipulation. Get stuck into that back of the seat entertainment system and work your way through Oscar favorites or new releases and make your world that tiny little screen in the seat in front of you. Everything else will melt away, especially if you watch something dramatic that makes you cry or miss your family, because that will take precedence in your worries over any potential flying accidents. Also, they edit all movies on planes to cut out any sequences in which planes crash, so you'll be able to truly forget you're in the sky.
5. Turbulence is completely routine
Turbulence happens! It's part of the routine of flying through a bad weather cell, and pilots and flight crews are equipped to deal, and they pull through. They're perfectly and thoroughly trained for this stuff. This happens on literally every flight. I can't think of one flight I've been on where there was no turbulence at all. And I'm sitting here writing this article. So don't sweat the shaky stuff.
6. If you're going down, you're going down
Look, some things are just out of your control. It's statistically unlikely your plane will go down, and even more so that you will die if it does (see number one above). But if the plane does go down, it goes down. It's like anything: if it happens, it happens. If you cross the road and get hit by an errant driver, you get hit. These things are out of your control. So you might as well order yourself a wine, tilt your seat back, and try to relax, because chances are, you're going to be absolutely fine, and it's not worrying that ensures that. What ensures that is the fact that, overwhelmingly, that planes don't commonly crash. You're good, boo.
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