I can’t exactly pinpoint when it all began. When I was a young child, I looked forward to flying as it meant that I had the opportunity to travel and spend time with my parents! I don’t remember thinking about the process of flying at all. It was almost as natural as riding in the car.
As I entered my teenage years though, anxiety began to creep in whenever there was travel involved. Be it by car, train or by plane – as long as it was a “long distance journey” my anxiety would be ready to pounce. I began to realize that the mere thought of departing on a long journey would trigger my anxiety.
I became more aware of the fatalities that were happening when people travel. I can’t be certain if the statistics for road accidents locally have increased over the last decade. I do know however, that airplane crashes were still relatively rare in comparison to road accidents. But when they did occur, they would receive a lot of publicity all over the world. Being exposed to all this information of accidents out there certainly did more harm than good for me. It served to only heighten my fear of flying which eventually evolved to a fear of travelling long distances.
Over time, travelling long distance by car became less daunting especially when I was in the driver’s seat. For some reason, if I was responsible for my own ‘accident’, it would not be so unbearable. With flying however, you have absolutely no control. You have to place your trust entirely in the pilots’ hands – no simple feat for me. Till this day, I have utmost respect for the flying crew who put their lives at risk every single trip and seem to be able to manage it without much fear at all. If only I could be as brave as them! There is much at stake and this group of people appear to do it so nonchalantly!
Prepping Myself For My Travels
So let me share with you my secret ‘fear routine’. I would start preparing weeks or even months ahead of time if I knew that I was going to be travelling. I would start by getting my affairs in order. Simple things like making sure my toiletries are finished, my insurance plans are easily found, important documents in accessible places and instructions left behind. I would try and make sure that my home is as neat as possible before leaving just in case I wasn’t going to come back anymore.
Somehow, the idea of having to trouble my loved ones with picking up the pieces was highly undesirable. Hence, to make things easy, I wanted to be prepared in case it was my last trip ever. This left me a nervous wreck especially in the days leading up to the trip. I would imagine what it would be like to have my last meal in the event that I got into an accident. I would savour every minute I have with my loved ones, because I would imagine what if it was the last time that I was going to see them.
I would literally try to slow down time (as if that was possible!), as if each moment was my last. And each time that I arrived at my destination safely, I would just be so utterly grateful, as though I was given a second chance to live! That itself increased my courage one notch every single time I survived a journey. Which is the light at the end of this tunnel of fear. I became braver with each battle of travelling conquered.
Whilst irrational, I realize that some of my more dysfunctional thoughts have resulted in some behaviours which have proved to be beneficial in the grander scheme of things. I realized how vulnerable we are living on this planet. It doesn’t matter what you do, what your achievements are, what you have or have not yet done. At the end of the day, these are some personal lessons that sprouted from my fear of flying/travelling. Maybe they can be of some help to you. You can use them to combat not only a fear of travel, but any daily anxiety you may feel.
4 Personal Lessons to Combat Anxiety
- Paradoxically, being in control does help to reduce the stress but it does not always solve things. You can’t always be in control and that is okay. The sooner you accept this reality the less anxious we would be generally.
- This may sound gory to some, but life is a cycle where people are born and eventually die. Everyone’s time will come and there is a season for everything. Most of us have no idea when, how or where our death would come. What we can be certain of though, is that we are currently still alive. So make the best of every moment, living like it would be the last. This isn’t about being morbid, but rather recognizing that time is such a precious asset and that we ought to truly relish every minute that we are alive. It is that precious. Give that kiss and hug that you wish to. Call up that friend. Visit that loved one. Go for that trip. Eat that dish you have been craving for. Of course, you need to also consider living vicariously versus taking care of yourself in the long run. But don’t forget to LIVE as though life was a gift. And it is!
- Not unless you have the option of working from home or not having to leave home at all. Make the most of every trip no matter how short or long-distance because we arrived at our destination safely. But it is also good to not take our safety for granted.
- When you are able to do this in any given situation, you will find that fear doesn’t become so paralyzing anymore because you have so much more to be thankful about in life. I choose to be thankful rather than be fearful. It is not an automatic attitude, but it is a conscious choice that I exercise daily with concerted effort.
In hindsight, I think I fear flying more than driving because I’m constantly driving around. Logically speaking, there are way more road accidents than air accidents. But somehow, my fear of flying is way more intense than my fear of driving. My logical mind tells me that this does not make sense! This is probably because I am desensitized to the risks of road accidents due to daily exposure. This means that the more exposed I am to something, the more numb I am to it.
So, at the moment, I am ready to face my fear of flying by facing it head on. I hope to embrace the chance to fly whenever possible so that I can also become desensitized to the risks of flying. I am probably going to still struggle with some of my anxiety but there is no better way of overcoming my fear than to face it head on and come out of it ALIVE with a story to tell. That is the kind of legacy of overcoming my fears that I want to pass on to the next generation.
However, if your anxiety persists over various situations though and has been prolonged for a while now, then it would be advisable to seek professional help to work through your anxiety step-by-step and start living fully and fearlessly.
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