Flying with Anxiety: 5 Tips On How to Make It Better

    woman sitting at the window seat of a plane looking outside the window

    I developed a fear of flying at age eleven. This was likely the result of Cast Away and some sensationalized National Geographic documentaries on plane accidents. Unfortunately, because most of my family lives an ocean away, seventeen-hour transpacific flights were a necessity throughout my youth.

    This means I’ve done my fair share of research on aviation, air travel statistics, and types of turbulence. In terms of knowledge, the most helpful resource for me has been Captain Stacey Chance’s Fear of Flying Help. It’s a free online course designed to address concerns relevant to people with flying anxiety such as turbulence and the dynamics of flight. If you’re an anxious flyer interested in gathering more information, I recommend it as a starting point. Knowledge is power to some degree, and it’s important to learn about the things you’re afraid of.

    With that said, I’m not an aviation professional. I’m just an anxious flyer who’s had twelve years of coping experience. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to flying anxiety, here are some things that help me.

    1. Avoid caffeine before and during your flight.

    You probably already know that caffeine and anxiety don’t mesh well. But I also know how tempting a cup of coffee can be. When you skip breakfast to make a morning flight and your gate is right by a Dunkin’ Donuts, it’s easy. I’m here to remind you that it’s a bad idea. Especially if you’re like me and one cup of coffee is enough to give you the jitters. Go with water instead—but of course make sure you’re well-fed before boarding, too.

    2. Seating matters, depending on what your needs and priorities are.

    If your priority is getting some sleep: Take the window seat. You get your own private corner and a wall to lean on. And the view doesn’t hurt either.

    If you drink a lot of water and will need bathroom access: Take the aisle seat. It’s annoying having to wake up the person next to you to let you out.

    If you have somewhere you need to be right after you land: Get a seat in the front of the plane so you can deplane right away. Save yourself the stress of waiting for everyone else to get off first.

    If you’re on a bigger plane and want to reduce the tilts and twirls: Try a seat in the middle section. I’ve heard it can reduce the sensations of turbulence due to the center of gravity. I don’t remember that it helped me much, but you may find that it works for you.

    3. Bring your version of comfort entertainment to distract yourself.

    For the readers: Bring an easy read. With my flying anxiety, I find it impossible to read the academic books I usually love—especially during turbulence. When I was younger, I had my best friend’s draft novel from middle school saved to my phone, and I read it whenever I got afraid. Now? I download Harry Potter fanfiction onto my iPad and it’s been my go-to for the past four years. The key is to find something that’s a) simple and easy to pay attention to and b) interesting enough to keep you distracted from your current predicament of being on a plane.

    For the writers: Bring a journal to scribble in when the flight gets rough. Sometimes on a really rocky flight I’ll have written ten pages nonstop. You can write about anything; for me, secrets and unprocessed feelings like to come out during these stressful flights. Maybe you’ll learn something about yourself.

    For the TV/movie folks: If you have Netflix, take advantage of the download feature on your iPad or smartphone. For me, the movies I like to watch on planes are The Sweetest Thing and The Princess Diaries. I like a feel-good romantic comedy to reduce my anxiety. I can never pay attention to the new releases on in-flight entertainment—but maybe you can!

    It might take time to figure out what works for you, but it’s worth it for a more relaxing journey.

    4. Take advantage of in-flight texting or Wi-Fi where possible.

    I think my biggest hangup about flying is feeling like I’ve lost contact with the world. In the air, I usually can’t communicate with anyone outside of that plane. And if anything were to happen to me, no one would know. Luckily, technology has progressed to make in-flight communication more widely available.

    JetBlue has free Wi-Fi on their flights. And if you’re a T-Mobile user, you get unlimited texting on American Airlines flights plus one hour of free Wi-Fi. There’s something oddly soothing about texting my friends in the middle of turbulence to let them know how scared I am. It’s like despite being 30,000 feet in the air, I still have a link to world on the ground. I’m sure that in-flight texting and Wi-Fi will only become more affordable as time passes, and I’m looking forward to it.

    5. Embrace your superstitions.

    I’m generally not a superstitious person, but my deepest fears have a way of getting to me. Flying brings out the strangest side of me:

    • I used to wear my golden snitch necklace on every flight. Somehow the wings and the connection to the magical world of Harry Potter made me feel safer.
    • I’ve been saying the same prayer under my breath on every single flight since I was eleven. It’s a prayer for safe transport that I found in my grandparents’ Buddhist prayer books when I was a child.
    • I don’t listen to songs that contain lyrics about “falling” or “crashing down.” I do, however, listen to “Breaking Free” from High School Musical on repeat because it refers to “soaring” and “flying.”
    • When I fly to LAX, I listen to “Party In the USA” as if lyrics about “hopping off the plane at LAX” will make it more likely that my flight will safely arrive at its destination.

    And I’m not the only one. Apparently, Megan Fox listens to Britney Spears on planes because she knows it’s not her “destiny” to die while listening to a Britney Spears song. So if you have a quirky little ritual to calm you down during flights, I say go for it. Who’s it going to hurt?

    And if all else fails, try a glass of wine.

    For most of my life, falling asleep on planes was impossible due to my anxiety. Then I got old enough to drink and realized that sleep is possible, after all. If you’re okay with alcohol and open to the occasional drink to make flying more comfortable, then by all means go for it.

    If you have a fear of flying or get antsy on planes, I hope this post was helpful—or at least relatable!—to you. I’ll leave you with these questions.

    For my fellow anxious flyers: What are some of the ways you cope with that fear?

    For those who don’t have a fear of flying: How do you keep yourself comfortable or entertained during flights??

    Flying with Anxiety


    A Guide to Having an Introvert Day Out

    a woman walking alone on a street

    I like to spend my Sundays alone. This was especially true when I lived with incredibly extroverted friends. Living arrangements aside, as an introvert I think it’s important to set aside some time for yourself, whether you’re just lounging inside the house alone or going out for a stroll in the park. Personally, it’s a much-needed break from all the social activity that can happen throughout the week—and I don’t just mean work-related activities, because for me I definitely need a break from happy hours and nights out with friends too.

    While I was living with my friends, it was pretty hard to get this alone time inside the house, since for the most part, someone was always home, and it just felt weird to be at home with your friend and not talk to them, even if the quiet is what you needed. Which is why I started going out a lot on weekends—alone.

    If you’re someone who’s afraid of going out by yourself, I’m here to tell you that I do it all the time, by choice, and that it’s totally fine. Healthy, even. And there are plenty of other people–introvert and extrovert–I know who do the same thing as well. So if you ever find yourself in need of getting out of the house, but not wanting any company, here are a few of my favorite things to do alone.

    1. Go see a movie, maybe check out a new theater.

    This is my absolute favorite thing to do alone, and especially when I desperately need some alone time. Because there is nothing more comforting than being in a dark room, away from your texts and emails and social media, with a gigantic distraction on the screen in front you for a few hours. As in, you actually get to ignore the rest of the world and all your responsibilities for a bit! If cost weren’t an issue, I would do this all the time. Also, it’s a pretty great excuse to indulge in some heavily buttered popcorn.

    2. Go to your favorite restaurant.

    I’m a huge fan of eating alone, and I’m not sure why there’s a stigma around this. Sometimes you just have a craving, and there’s no one around who’s free. Sometimes you want to go eat at your favorite Peruvian restaurant that’s kind of far away and none of your friends are willing to trek out there with you. Other times you just want to be alone, with no need for conversation. Give it a shot. I promise you won’t be judged for requesting a table for one.

    3. Hang out by yourself at a coffee shop, maybe get something done, or just enjoy the smell of coffee and the white noise.

    As in, go with a book, or your journal, or your laptop, and just hang out. I would say that this is a good opportunity to explore and support your local coffee shops, but I’ve always had trouble finding seats at my local coffee shops, so often I end up at a Panera instead—because you can always find an empty table at Panera. And they generally don’t mind if you stay a while. (And also, because their mac and cheese is pretty good.) The background noise is usually soft enough, unlike at a Starbucks or wherever it is they make a lot of blended drinks, but it still gives you that cafe background noise that’s really comforting and makes you want to get work done, assuming you have work to get done.

    4. Go to a museum and explore the kind of things you’re into–whether that’s art or history or science or whatever.

    Admittedly, this was more of an option for me back when I was living in DC, with access to a city full of free Smithsonian museums. Now that I’m back in Southern California, my options are much more limited. But if this is an option for you, I highly recommend it. Because when you to a museum alone, you get to enjoy it at your own pace—meaning if you think that one portrait is kind of boring, you can just move on to the next one without worrying your friend or your date will judge you for not having good taste. Or if you’re in an exhibit that’s kind of amazing, you can stick around and read all the plaques and not have to worry about taking too long. Favorite museum thus far: the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC–everyone please go see it.

    Those are just a few of my favorite things to do solo, but of course there are plenty of other ways to enjoy time by yourself. I know for the more outdoorsy introverts of the world, there are a lot of other options I haven’t mentioned: a walk in the park, a hike, a bike ride, and so on.

    If you’re a fellow introvert, an extrovert, however you see yourself: Have you ever felt the need to have a day out by yourself? What are some of your favorite activities to enjoy alone?

    Pin It: A Guide to Having an Introvert Day Out

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    Introducing the Blogger: A Writer, An Academic, A Dog Parent

    Introducing the Blogger

    Hi, everyone! I’m Dawy (it’s pronounced DAY-wee with an emphasis on the first syllable, though a lot of people get it wrong). Welcome to my website! It feels only appropriate that my first post on here should be dedicated to explaining how and why this website came to be, so I guess I’ll start introducing myself.

    The Story

    I left my job a few months ago and moved back in with my family in Los Angeles. During this time off, I’ve done a lot of thinking about where I wanted to go next in my career and how I wanted to be spending my time. And while I haven’t reached absolute clarity, I’ve realized the following things:

    • I want to apply to a PhD sociology program at some point
    • I want to cultivate my creative writing ability, and in general invest more in my creative side than I have in the past
    • I want to start a side business doing freelance writing

    I’m not entirely sure how any of these things fit in with one another. Looking at it all and thinking of all that these different subject items entail makes me a little (a lot) nervous. I don’t even know if it’s possible to be a PhD student while freelancing on the side. Then again, I don’t know when I’ll get into a PhD program, or how I’m going to start freelancing with not much of a portfolio at all.

    Enter the blog. In my initial research on how to get started with freelance writing, the community seems to be almost unanimously in favor of starting a blog. So that’s what this is. I do a lot of writing in my free time (mainly journals, random poems, unsent letters, the works), but I’ve never written for much of an audience.

    And while I have a few accounts on where I’ve tried to dabble in blogging, I eventually decided that if I was going to take this seriously—which I plan to—I may as well get my own domain (which, by the way, is my actual name in case you were wondering) and claim my place on the internet. So that’s what I did, and now I’m self-hosted and feeling super official about it.

    The Blog

    Since I have way too many interests to be narrowed down into a specific niche, I’m just going to call my blog a “lifestyle blog” and pretty much write whatever I feel like writing about. But whatever I feel like writing about will usually be something pertaining to the young twenty-something woman of color living in the U.S., since that is who I am.

    Some topics I care a lot about and will probably be posting regularly about are:

    • Self-care, mental health, and overall wellness
    • Personal growth and career-related issues
    • Immigrant/transnational specific experiences
    • Relationships, family and otherwise
    • Intersectionality (and lack thereof) in mainstream feminism (hint: I love Bitch Media)

    I think that pretty much covers it. But as I’m typing this I’m pretty tired and am probably missing something, so I’ll probably come back and edit later when I have a clearer vision of what this blog will look like. Until then!