I am here to tell you that you can get over your fear of flying.
I vividly remember landing at Chicago O’Hare Airport years ago with my family. As the plane pitched from side-to-side approaching the runway in the Windy City, every nerve in my body stood at attention. “Why is the pilot speeding up when we’re so close to the ground?” “How can he/she land this monstrous hunk of steel when it’s so windy?” “What was that noise?” I asked myself and anyone else within earshot. My daughter, Amy, was sympathetic but surely embarrassed. My son, Brian, was laughing and teasing me from across the aisle, telling me not to worry because the wings are held together with duct tape. And my then-husband, Tom, was pretending that he didn’t know me. I can’t say that I blamed him – I was sobbing and thought I was about to die.
Looking back I can laugh at it, but I know that at the time my fear was very real. For years, it didn’t take something major to raise my anxiety level – any little bit of turbulence would do, or a sound that convinced me something was wrong with the plane. My heart would race and I would break into a cold sweat. Heck, I even did paintings about it! (see above)
Before boarding a flight, I would take Dramamine (the drowsy one, of course) and an anti-anxiety pill to calm me down. Sometimes I would even have a drink on the plane. Now, I’m a little person, and even this combo wasn’t enough to stop the fear. I would arrive at my destination and crash, so tired from the drugs and the stress I put on my body that I would lose the first day of my vacation sleeping it off. So it was no surprise years later when I had my adrenal glands checked and they were seriously out of whack. I was living too much of my life in “fight or flight mode”. We can joke about anxiety but it can have serious consequences on our health. We were designed with a mechanism to kick in adrenaline when necessary (i.e. a saber tooth tiger chasing us) but shut off when all is well. My doctor explained to me that when our adrenals are functioning properly, we should operate much like a car – on, off or idling. Judging from my test results, my “car” was either on or idling, but never off. I was depleted from a life of high anxiety.
Looking back, it was no surprise that my body found a way to get my attention. Our bodies have a way of doing that. In my case, six years of the debilitating pain of fibromyalgia was enough to wake me up and send me searching for ways to feel good again. Luckily, my intuition guided me to a more holistic approach. My health improved and my anxiety began to melt away.
Getting back to the subject of flying, I’m not lying when I tell you that not only am I no longer afraid of flying but I actually enjoy it (minus the obvious hassles). How did I do it? Not with drugs or alcohol. I learned to meditate. I talk about meditation a lot and how it has transformed my life. One of the greatest fringe benefits it has given me is the ability to get on an airplane without fear, anxiety, drugs or alcohol. So if you or a loved one suffers from a fear of flying (or anything else for that matter), give meditation a try. It’s so much safer than popping pills and the benefits are far-reaching.
I learned many different forms of meditation before settling on a mantra-based one that I learned from my energy medicine teacher. You can learn more about that method here.
I invested in a set of noise-canceling headphones, downloaded some nature sounds (ocean, rain, etc.) onto my iPod and I take them with me whenever I fly. There is something profoundly moving about meditating when you’re up in the clouds. Hours pass like minutes and before you know it, you’re being asked to put your seat upright and your tray table away. Say goodbye to your fear of flying!
P.S. This scene with Meg Ryan from French Kiss never fails to make me laugh. It could have been me!