How to Handle Travel Anxiety
Following the end of a brutal semester, I packed a couple bags and flew out to LAX along with five of my closest girlfriends. We packed the week with fun plans but first we had to make it through the flight. Though I've become a seasoned flyer over the past couple months, I would be accompanied by both a first-time flyer and another who'd flown but rarely without intense anxiety. The girls had prepared with Dramamine, sleeping pills, and Spotify playlists already set to last through the entire experience. Even the girls who had flown on numerous occasions had begun mentally preparing themselves for the upcoming stress. I can just about call myself a [second-hand] travel-anxiety expert. Here are some of the things I quickly found to be the most helpful in reducing the inevitable stress that accompanies flying.
Know the Rules
Save yourself the stress of finding out you have one too many bags just as you're walking on the plane or that your favorite Polaroid Camera needs to go through an additional twenty minutes of security. Basically, feel comfortable enough with the rules that you aren't caught off guard. The first time I flew, I had no idea that I needed to take out my laptop before sending my bag through. As the TSA gentleman pulled me aside, asking if anything sharp was in my bag, I thought I might vomit. Had I have known a bit more beforehand, I would have been saved from a lot of unnecessary stress.
Watch the Forecast
If storms are ahead, prepare yourself for turbulence. This is normal in a flight but can be scary if unexpected. On my way back from Texas in February, we flew right into a storm over Iowa. Having my headphones in, I didn't hear the intercom announcement and was totally caught off-guard when we found ourselves pitching in the wind. Just do what you can with checking the forecast so you have an idea of what's in store.
Understand the Reality of Flying
You are far more likely to be killed in a car crash than a flight. In fact, a hundred times more likely. There are even more outrageous things, though, more likely to kill you. For instance, a lightning strike or drowning in your tub. Now, I don't mean to make you afraid of storms or bubble baths, but, doesn't that put things into perspective a bit? The idea of flying is, no doubt, one of the most instinctively scary things for us land-bound creatures. Nevertheless, it is possible and way safer than you might imagine.
There is medication to help you if your anxiety is too unbearable. Don't be afraid to use it. Many of the girls I mentioned on the trip had their own handy bottles of sleeping pills, Damamine, and anxiety pills just for the occasion. You'll want to talk to your Doc though to be sure it's right for you.
The less you have to worry about, the less stressed out you'll be. There are loads of posts out there about the perfect packing list, take a look at a few to give yourself an idea of what you'll actually need. The more things you've got to keep track of, the harder security and the likes will be, though. I was bad on this last trip, adding my camera bag and tripod last minute. The added stress from trying to shove one bag in another to fit past the carry-on requirements was intense. Do what you can to save yourself from that.
Bring along things to keep you busy on the flight if you know you won't be sleeping. Headphones, books, tablet, journal, portable games, etc would each suffice. On my way to Cali, I filled my head with music and enjoyed the spectacular mountain views. Returning, I was a bit more exhausted so sleep and brainstorming blog ideas kept me busy. Find what makes you calm and use it to your advantage.
Watch What You Eat
Do not have caffeine before the flight. It will likely make you anxious and it's more likely you'll sleep through the flight if you skip the caffeine buzz. Also, be sure to eat before arriving, airport prices alone are stressful and ideally are to be avoided. Lastly, stay hydrated during the flight to avoid feeling woozy/sick.
If You're Air-Sick
For an upset tummy, there's always sprite/ginger ale available that can often help to settle stomach issues. You may consider switching to an aisle seat if the bathroom is an issue. Don't forget medication such as Tums or ibuprofen if you expect issues during flight.
Once you're past the initial fear of flight, the experience can truly be a spectacular one. The sights are ones impossible to see any other way and you have the chance to experience one of the greatest technological feats of the past century. Finding ways past your fear is truly worth the adrenaline and joy that will follow.