I haven’t always been afraid of flying. When I was little and going on holidays to the Costa del Sol for two glorious weeks of water-fights and Spanish doughnuts, the flight was one of the highlights of the trip. The speed and power of take off made me squeal with excitement and then later, when the plane had reached its cruising height, there were hours of fun to be had spotting leaping rabbits or sleeping dragons in the cloud formations out the window.
Gradually though, as I got older and as I travelled more and more fear began to creep in. Actually, that’s not true. There was no “creeping” nor was it gradual. One night on a solo long haul flight to New Zealand at the age of 19 years old, I woke up as we were flying across the Indian Ocean. The rest of the passengers were peacfeully sleeping, the plane was steady and gently humming and for some unknown reason I totally freaked out. Horrific, freak accident scenarios kept flashing through my mind and all I could think about was how far away I was from home. From that moment on I became ridiculously scared of flying.
I say “ridiculously” for two reasons. Firstly, I know that flying is statistically the safest form of travel and that my chances of falling out of the sky are teeny-weeny. And secondly because I really did turn into a gibbering idiot whenever I flew for years and years afterwards. I cried, I shook, I stared wildly about me. I gibbered to strangers, I held the hand of stewardesses, I hyperventilated. I was a freaking mess.
Luckily, my fear never stopped me from travelling. I simply ignored my phobia when booking flights then, by the time panic properly kicked in, the doors were locked, we were on the runway and I knew I couldn’t escape without being charged with breach of the peace or such like. And when I thought about the situation outwith flight times, I reasoned that a few hours of abject terror were worth a weekend in Stockholm or a week in Kelalonia.
Recently, though, I decided that I ought to at least try and ease my fear and so I began to look for ways to ease my alarm at flying. Can’t say I was entirely sucessful as I still hate flying, but I can now fly without sobbing or insisting that strangers tell me their life stories.
There was no one thing that made this change possible. In fact, it was only after I began implementing a series of measures that I’ve been able to fly without tears or heavy breathing. There are a couple of visualisation exercises that I do (including counting to 100 during take-off and with each number think of something beautiful or cute or funny); I tense every muscle in my body then relax them, letting myself know that I am in charge of my bodily reactions; I listen for familiar engine noises (wheels up – check, boost off – check…) and, finally, I drink gin.
Fizzy tonic is a MUST, Buy single serving cans/bottles unless you are intending on making a lot of G&Ts in a short period of time.
Lots of ice makes for a weak drink. Chill your tonic and keep your gin in the freezer to lessen the need for lots of ice cubes.
Use lemon wedges not slices. And squeeze the juice into the drink first.
Find a gin you like. My standard is Gordon’s but I also like Bombay Saphire and adore Hendrick’s (with cucumber not lemon) for a special occasion.