It is well documented within my own brain that I am a nervous flyer. I don’t know if it is because I think too much of “What would I do if…” situations or if it is straight fear. Not so much fear of the end, but fear of how I get there. All that being said, I just landed in Denver and still have another flight back to Seattle in a couple hours, so my nervousness will arise again in a little while.

I flew a lot as a kid. My parents had a little 4 seater Cessna that we would take family vacations in. I never had any issues flying then, even though those little planes are more often than not the ones to crash. I remember the excitement of my Dad yelling “CLEAR” out the little tiny window before starting the single prop engine ( I can still hear his exact voice in my head today), and the thrill of shooting down the runway and taking off into the air… woohoo! I think back on that little plane and realize, now, that my lack of fear probably came from the fact that I could see everything that was going on. I could hear my dad talking to the tower, I could see all of the instruments and gauges, I could see, and touch and hear it all. I felt that I had control over the situation.

Thinking back on those days while sitting at 10,000 feet, I don’t have that same feeling of control. I don’t know the people sitting in that cockpit, I don’t know their lives, what they have been doing. Are they really tired? Are they on cold medicine, did they decide this morning to just “end it all”… any number of things that can cause me to be worried. Things that I have no control over.

On my flight here I was lucky enough to sit next to an airline pilot on his way home to Denver. He was calm and relaxed and quite pleasant to talk to. It got me thinking about how I, as a nervous flyer, manage to not have a “freak out” every time I fly and thought I would share some of those tips with you.

  1. Stop thinking – I try to just shut off the part of my brain that worries and be productive with my thoughts
  2. Remember that turbulence is just “bumps in the road” – I had a pilot friend tell me to think of turbulence as the peaks and valleys of an unpaved backwoods road.  The plane bounces up and down just like a car would.
  3. Watch the crew – If that plane is going crazy and the attendants are still laughing and serving drinks you are probably ok.
  4. Sometimes you have to just let go – it’s ok to not be in control and let people do what they do.  The pilot next to me had been flying for 14 years commercially and 10 years prior. pretty sure he knows what he is doing.
  5. Sit straight – I know it seems simple, but during take-off and landing I square myself up in my seat.  I sit upright (no hunching) and face directly forward.  For some reason this makes me feel more “put together” and ready for anything.

These are just a couple of tips, but they really do help me get over my anxiety of flying.

As I finish writing this, I am about to board my plane to Seattle.  I am mentally preparing myself to follow my own tips and think about what book I am going to read on the short ride home.