Tips for flying well
Whilst hypnotherapy can be very helpful for nervous flyers (your first port of call), I’ve compiled a couple of lists which will also support you and which you can take on board.
There was a time I didn’t fly for many years. Now I fly around twice a year, not completely comfortably, but close to it. Unusually, I’ve just done five flights in three weeks, and everything has been more or less fine. I had a slightly nervous few minutes on the penultimate flight and decided to jot this down in case it helps others (the actual act of writing on the flight was a great distraction too).
Preparation before the flight:
1. Learn a simple relaxation technique. There are many available on the net or you are welcome to use mine here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/81gjksce6r6dxb4/Alpha%20Relax.mp3?dl=0
Practise this a few times until you know it by heart and can use it on the plane.
2. Do a 'Flying With Confidence' course. For me it was worth its weight in gold!
3. Practise self-compassion — this can be a daily practice when you notice your mind in chastising mode! If your mind starts to beat you up on the plane then you will have already practised what to do. A question I find helpful to reflect on is: “Why am I beating myself up/hurting myself/preventing pleasure?”
4. Practise noticing your ever-changing emotional nature and practise being at ease with this. Know that everything is ephemeral including these emotional states. This too may be helpful if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable on the plane. I’m writing this on a flight right now, following an uncomfortable few minutes. I got through it by knowing it was only fleeting and I did not need to hold on to it (i.e. allow the mind to become attached to suffering).
“This too will pass” is a well known “spiritual” concept. Everything changes. The difficult passes and becomes less difficult and the good times pass too. Just as our own Earth constantly moves, everything around us is in a state of flux. It is only our clinging or attachment to our emotional state that maintains the struggle. This is a fundamental Buddhist concept, as is “Don’t know mind” - e.g. if we step out of 'knowing' into learning mode, then we can look at whatever feeling we have and learn from it. Each moment is unique. We allow the things to be the way they are. We recognise them but know that they will change form.
5. Take some medication with you as a comfort blanket (e.g. diazepam, Xanax - but always check with your medical practitioner before taking any new medications).
6. Another comfort blanket might be a talisman of some sort.
7. If you have a partner, discuss how you would like to play this ahead of time...what you might need from them. Ask if you can depend on their support. That way, you have made another contract which you can use during the flight.
8. You can inform the airline ahead of time that you are a nervous flyer and they will kindly keep an eye on you — and support you.
During the flight:
1. Look around you and notice all the other people. Notice that they are probably just reading, sleeping, walking, busy on an electronic device, chatting, eating, smiling, bored... It’s highly unlikely they are bothered about anything in the least. This really helped me on one flight when I was having an uncomfortable few minutes. I looked at someone who appeared to be very comfortable and thought, “What makes you so special, Fishel?”. Out of the hundreds of thousands of planes that fly every day, I was shocked at how self-obsessed, almost narcissistic of me to think that my plane would be the one that gets in trouble!
2. Know that the rush of adrenaline from panic needs a physical outlet - so get out of your seat (if necessary and possible) and take a brisk stroll up and down the plane.
3. Remember that you have your relaxation exercise.
4. Remember, if really suffering, you have your medication which may take as short a time as fifteen minutes to kick in.
5. I once called for assistance from an air hostess. Giving voice to my vulnerability to someone who was much more experienced in flying than me was extremely beneficial. In fact it turned a major panic attack into total calm within ten minutes or so.
6. Drinking water and having a sweet snack has also been helpful.
7. Visualise the whole journey in its most positive aspect: see the happy landing and arrival at your first port of call on the holiday (your hypnotherapy will probably have given you an experience of this).
8. Know that you deserve to have a pleasurable time. Life is short. Make these memorable times now.