How I Cured My Fear of Flying

Valletta, Malta I’m home!!! Thanks so much for bearing with me over the last few weeks guys – the intense way I travel means it’s often hard to stay on top of my editorial content here but am happy to report I’m home for the next month and a bit and am so excited to just be around, soak in time at home and really share a ton on here! Buckle up for a serious month of fun holiday content!

On the note of travel though, en route home from my last trip (which had me in Malta and Dublin – can not wait to share more from my adventures there!) I shared a quick little Insta Story about how I actually love flying home because I do genuinely love it – it’s pretty much my time to either do undisturbed work, watch some of my fave shows, nap, sip some wine and chill out. I fly so much too that it’s kind of crucial that I love it, though like a lot of people, I didn’t always love it and quite frankly, there was a period years ago when I had a genuine fear of flying. Coincidentally, I ended up getting so many DM’s from people asking me to share my tips and tricks (something which I didn’t really think was of much interest before, this is why I love Insta Story specifically for getting to have a more direct channel to you guys!) so here I am today fresh off of a 15 hour journey home to share what worked for me!

Mdina, Malta While I’ll dive into routines and little tips and tricks for when you’re on the plane in a moment, I should first share what my fear of flying was like. Previously, through my younger life and teens I’d say I was an average flier – not paralyzed with fear but also nervous whenever we hit turbulence. Not to blame this all on my older sister, but it wasn’t until a flight to Maui in my early ’20s with the whole family when I really became scared. I love my sister to death but she has a flair for the drama sometimes and on this flight, she decided to get scared and pretty much narrate the whole internal experience. It went something like this “oh my god hold my hand…ugh my palms are so sweaty, omg omg omg why is it so bumpy WHAT IS THAT NOISE holy shit Alex what if we die oh my god HOLD MY HAND hold it aaaah hahahaha yours is so sweaty now too oh my god what IS that noise why does it keep happening why?!?!?!” Like so many people, all it takes is that one bad flight experience to set off a fear – thanks to Tash’s great performance and my own prior slight uneasiness about flying that I think most people usually have, that one literally white-knuckled flight just set off a paralyzing fear for me for a year or so where I became hyperaware of everything and anxious from security on one end to landing on the other.

It really hit its peak when I went away to Toronto a month later to live there for the summer – over the course of the summer, I literally dreaded the eventual day I’d have to come home. I got some over the counter sleeping pills to hopefully knock me out, but Bridesmaids-style, with so much adrenaline coursing through my body I ended up just being like really, really, really high. It was terrible and when I got home and in Vancouver, I decided to commit myself to figuring out how to not only be a good flier, but to enjoy flying (which I have to say, I really, really do now!). At the time, I had no idea that I’d eventually be a travel blogger, but if I hadn’t sorted it out I don’t think I’d be sitting here fresh off the plane from another adventure I feel so blessed I get to go on and share with you guys. So onto the tips!

Blue Lagoon, Gozo, MaltaI used to have a very physical reaction to my anxieties over flying and to any fear or anxiety in general – my stomach would get in knots, I’d have a lot of digestive distress, my breathing would shorten and shallow and I’d have really bad pains in my gut. I saw a naturopath with the intent of basically getting some allergy testing and maybe some help with anxiety since I knew there was the gut-brain connection, but after I told her about my triggers (giving presentations, flying, stress, etc), what she ended up telling me changed my life and changed my relationship with flying more than anything else I did. She told me to trust.

I used to 100% characterize myself as a Type A, and with that came not only some good things (like ambition and drive), but some negative qualities, like unrelentingly high expectations of myself, a real need to control and serious impatience. She actually used the scenario of flying (unintentionally curing my fear within one session, no joke) to help me work out my digestive woes – she said a lot of Type A’s have tummy troubles because our bodies react to a lack of control, and nowhere is that more obvious than in flights. Depending on the way you look at it, you’re kind of giving your safety and security to a handful of people you’ve never met and to the proper mechanisms of a totally inanimate object! She told me I had to learn to relinquish control and not only trust my body to be okay, but to trust others in general. Trust that the pilots have spent years upon years training, trust the attendants to help, trust the planes whose technology has benefited from insane amounts of research and science to ensure we get where we want to go safely.

Sliema, MaltaI wouldn’t call myself a Type A anymore, to be totally honest – I’ve become so much more laid-back in all areas of my life (meditation has probably been the biggest thing for me), but especially up in the air, I literally feel a sense of relief because for however many hours I’m up in the air, no one can get to me and I can just let go of any responsibility or stressor I have on the ground. I just trust the whole team to get me to my destination and then for the whole flight, I actually get to turn my brain off and just chill out with no distractions or nuisances. It’s the best.

I think whether you have control issues or just had a really scary flight experience, the main thing is to nurture that sense of trust and to know that as far as modes of transport go, planes are really one of the safest options! Statistically, you’re at more risk of being in a car accident on the cab home than you are to have any issues up in the air. Not to mention, remember the insane levels of training that all members of your on-board staff team have!

There are a couple other things I’ve done over the years though to help me feel zen and happy the whole flight experience too. First of all, develop an in-flight routine of some sort – whatever would make you most comfortable and happy! I have a few – my in-flight beauty routine, my take-off routine (which involves slipping on some warm socks [something about being warm on a plane is very reassuring to me], reading a mag and putting on some of Saje’s Peppermint Halo to bring me into my body and lighten up the effects of any pressure changes) and I usually meditate a lot while I’m up in the air too with an app like Headspace. Anything that helps you build a little bubble of comfort and joy in your little space!

If it’s a viable option for you, see about upgrades when and if you can (there are often sales actually or great options like Option Plus with Air Transat for premium economy!). I usually only do this for longer haul flights but it does help to just give you that added comfort! Saving those pennies for your travels when you’re on the ground? Just make sure you pick an aisle or window seat (set a calendar reminder for as soon as you can check in so that you can pick first) and aim to pick a seat in the middle section, where you’ll feel turbulence less. On the note of turbulence though, I remember a flight attendant telling me that turbulence has never brought down a plane – freak weather conditions or mechanical errors might require an earlier landing, but turbulence itself is a very normal part of flying and not something to be scared of!

Finally, this is the time to indulge! Love The Office, Friends, etc but don’t take the time to watch it at home? Download it all on Netflix before your flight and binge it! Girl’s Trip is a legit hilarious movie I saw on the way home too – any of those guilty pleasures are really perfect not only for keeping everything light, but because it helps you frame flying as a treat to yourself as opposed to something to just get through. That’s why I, for one, always opt for some bubbly or vino when it’s offered in-fight (I mean, within reason obviously! One time a lady next to Matt and I had six bottles of wine and I was like respect but also eek) – at home, I’m pretty strict with my diet so I have no problem indulging on the flight home (always making sure I hydrate a ton though) because I’ve chosen to view my flights there and home as actual parts of the trip, not just modes of transport. Unwind, have fun and treat it like a bit of a self-care experience!

Do you (or did you) have a fear of flying? Let me know in the comments below and if you overcame it, share any other tips you have for others to read!

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  1. 11.29.17

    Las fotos son preciosas, el lugar, maravilloso

  2. 11.29.17
    `Rebekah said:

    I used to have a fear of flying myself, but it has dissipated some in the last few years. I used to be a strictly aisle seat person, but then I somehow discovered sitting by the window and seeing that we are indeed not falling out of the sky every time we hit a bump helped a lot. Turbulence is what freaks me out, so I’m glad you wrote that part about what the flight attendant told you. It makes sense! I’ll have to keep that in mind. It makes it a little harder from me to unwind with two little kids, but I did LOVE how Porter Airlines offered wine last time my family flew into Canada.

  3. 12.5.17

    I used to be really bad with flying because I experienced really bad turbulence when I was flying alone but I’m doing a little better now!

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