Oh, the joys of flying. Small chairs, cramped legs, tiny bags of peanuts (if you’re lucky, these days) and awkward conversation with the person trapped next to you. Then there’s being stuck in the middle or window seat, where you must tap the person next to you on the shoulder then squeeze past them, jamming your buns in their face every time you need to use the bathroom. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I personally love sitting next to that one person who ate too many beans before the flight.
These things, coupled with an acute fear of flying, make me a nervous wreck anytime I board an airplane. Luckily, there are several things I do to reduce stress and calm my nerves, so I don’t go shrieking down the cabin aisle in panic and end up back in my seat in chair restraints.*
1. Drink water instead of coffee, soda or alcohol. Alcohol will dehydrate you and make you feel worse (although there’s something to be said for drinking enough to knock you out so you’ll wake up just as your plane is taxiing the runway). Caffeine will usually make you jittery and more apt to lose your gourd if the plane hits turbulence.
2. Bring something to keep your mind off flying. A good book, an electronic video game, an mp3 player. Try to avoid listening to songs about death and mayhem, if at all possible. If you choose to read, stick to something light, like a book you’d take to the beach, and not Chesley Sullenberger’s upcoming life story.
3. Take a stroll. If your body cramps up after awhile, you’ll be even more miserable. Even if you don’t have to go, walk to the bathroom just to stretch your legs and do some people-watching.
4. Wear comfortable clothes. If your waistband isn’t digging into your skin, you’ll feel a whole lot better. If you must emerge from the gate looking fresh and gorgeous, tuck a spare change of clothes into your carry-on and change in the bathroom before the plane’s final descent. Though be careful – one time my plane hit a spot of turbulence while I was changing my clothing in the bathroom, and I ended up looking like I’d peed my pants.
5. Choose your seat wisely. Seats in the middle of the airplane are affected by turbulence the least. Statistically, seats at the rear of the plane are safest in the event of a crash, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board. Exit aisle seats are also roomier, as long as you’re prepared to help out in an emergency.
Nerves or not, flying is arguably the best way to get around if you’re traveling long distances. Either make peace with it, and try to learn to sit back and enjoy, or be a miserable wreck on every flight. So far, I’m stuck with the latter, but trying hard to change. Instead of being nervous, try to instead focus on how incredible human flight is, like Comedian Louis CK, best summed up by his dumbstruck exclamation on the Conan O’Brien show: “You’re sitting in a chair … in the SKY!”
*As far as I am aware, air flight attendants do not physically restrain passengers just for being scared of flying. I took a bit of poetic license.