My apologies for having not posted anything in a little while! I’ve been a bit all over the place with officially leaving my job, ending summer classes, and visiting family. My family moved to Texas about three years ago (maybe four?). Since they moved, I have had to fly there in order to be able to see them. Growing up, I was fairly used to planes and flying as my family would travel to Puerto Rico every so often and I was never scared to fly or scared of planes. I began flying to see my family several times a year: Spring Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the like. You would think I would become quite comfortable with flying, but quite the opposite is true.
Flying terrifies me – especially flying alone. There’s something completely unnerving about the fact that you are incredibly high up in the air in a metal contraption. This concept is made more unnerving when you are the kind of person who envisions how falling out of the airplane would be certain death. And quite a terrifying death at that.
Couple this with the trending travel bug that has been floating around the online realm. So many people dream of venturing to different countries and seeing what the rest of the world has to offer. Dozens of YouTubers have taken the plunge to backpack the world, taking only 100 items or less and documenting their experiences. The whole idea has its own charm and appeal. However, there still remains that in-between experience – the traveling to and from a place. And for me, that complicates things.
Before my most recent flight, I experienced one of the biggest bouts of flight-related anxiety that I have ever felt. Thinking about the flight I had to get on later that day, my hands grew numb and I broke out into a mild cold sweat. My hands began to tremble and my heart beat faster. Irrational thoughts like
What if I die? What if the plane crashes?
Were racing through my mind. I was envisioning every possible terrible scenario that could occur during my flight. It was around this time where I began to realize something:
If I want to see other countries, I am going to have to fly.
If I wanted to go anywhere far away, without taking years driving there, I was going to have to fly. Consequentially, I was going to have to face my aviophobia. I had to weigh the consequences in my mind. If I decided to avoid flying altogether, I would both not be able to see my family and I would not be able to travel anywhere other than Wisconsin and the nearby area. If I embraced flying, I would be able to see my family as well as be able to travel anywhere with little inhibition. I very quickly came to the conclusion that flying is a necessity for me.
However, my fears still existed. I had to do something about them. I racked my student-counselor-in-training brain until I came up with a satisfying solution.
When you Google the word “mindfulness”, you get this definition: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, as a therapeutic technique.”
So, I decided to put mindfulness to the test to see how it would fair out against my anxiety. I purchased one of those adult coloring books – you know, the ones with the mandalas and detailed zoo animals. Armed with my new coloring book and my Staedtler colored 20-count pens (not sponsored, but I totally love them and would love to be sponsored haha!), I boarded the plane. I spent the entire 2 hour flight coloring. Every time I found my mind wandering and worrying, I refocused my attention to my coloring. I intentionally took note of the kinds of strokes I was making, the colors I was choosing, how hard I was gripping the marker, and so on. I noticed that I had been using lots of bright, harsher colors like reds and oranges.
After realizing this, I started purposefully coloring with calmer colors like blues and purples. I found that not only did the coloring help relieve a large amount of my anxiety, but also seeing more calming colors also helped my fears to settle.
It’s definitely a trick that I am going to continue to use, especially as I want to do more traveling in my future – potentially even much longer flights.
I’m curious about your thoughts! Anyone afraid of flying but love traveling? Or maybe you have no fears of flight and love traveling! What are things that you do to calm yourself down? Let me know in the comments!
Good luck to you, where ever you are on your journey (even if you’re in the flying part of your journey)!
Photos from Pexel and Staedtler distributors.