Having recently flown long haul from Glasgow to Brisbane – I thought I would write a quick post on how I prepare for, and survive a long haul flight as an anxious traveler.
I was fortunate this time that my anxiety didn’t really cause me too many problems on this journey (YAY!), and I can attribute this to ‘learning from my mistakes’ on previous long haul journeys from the UK to Australia. Let’s be honest – even for someone who DOESN’T have anxiety – this flight ain’t much fun. There are only so many movies you can watch (and my attention span only covers 50% of most movies anyway before I get bored and switch off), and it’s only a matter of time before boredom sets in and you start counting the number of minutes to go – which feels 10 times longer than it actually is!
My first tip isn’t really a tip, but here it is anyway..
1. Fly business class if you can afford to. I can’t hahah! But I always dream of one day being able to. My anxiety is coupled with claustrophobia, and although you’re always going to be ‘closed in’ on a plane anyway, having a bit more room round about you will definitely settle the nerves. Not to mention less people, less business and less noise.
2. Prepare some medication before you fly. Even if you don’t regularly take medication for your anxiety – I’d recommend a quick GP visit before you head off to ask for something ‘just in case’ you need it. I always feel at my most anxious just after take-off, for around 2-3 hours until I get used to the new environment, and I take a beta blocker to help mask the symptoms (like nausea, fluttering tummy, sweats). Honestly, I never use these unless I’m flying – and they really do help! I’ve never needed a tranquilliser, but you might want to think about one of those if you think you need it. No shame!
3. Book your preferred seat in advance (and be willing to pay extra for it). For me – aisle seat is a MUST, located not too far away from the toilets (but not too close). My anxiety comes from being worried about becoming unwell in public (ie. needing to use the toilet with urgency), so being able to get up out of my seat as frequently as I need to without disturbing others is what matters most to me. Most airlines will allow you to book a preferred seat well in advance of check-in for a small additional fee. I think it’s worth it.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask the cabin crew for help. If you’re not feeling too great, tell somebody. I didn’t need to do that this time, but when I flew the same route back in February this year, I did have to. Sometimes just sharing how you’re feeling and talking about it can help calm you a little. You’ll find that cabin crew are very experienced when it comes to anxiety in the air, and it’s not unusual at all – you’re certainly not alone. There was a young guy sitting behind me on my flight from Dubai to Brisbane who was suffering terribly from anxiety for the entire flight – the cabin crew were amazing with him, and I felt more reassured too. Brave guy, getting on a flight like that when fear could have easily stopped him.
5. Download the ‘Calm’ or ‘Headspace’ app to your phone. Use it when you feel a ‘wave’ coming over you. There are simple guided breathing exercises which I find really help to ground me when I start to feel that familiar panicky sweat coming over me. Set it for 20 minutes, follow the guided breathing and see how you feel after that.
6. Be a healthy flier. Look after your basic health needs when flying. The happier your body is internally, the better you will feel. Stay well hydrated, particularly in the couple of days leading up to your flight. Drink water regularly throughout your flight, do not consume caffeine or alcohol on board, and make sure you get up and move around at least once per hour. Aim to try and get a few hours sleep (easier said than done, I know – I didn’t sleep at all on the way here). Prepare some healthy snacks to take with you before you fly.
I hope this helps you before your next long haul flight! Be sure to check out my other blog ‘5 tips for the anxious traveler‘.