An eleven-year-old British boy and his father will soon embark on a 3,500 mile overland journey from the UAE to the UK along the safest route possible. The family is relocating back to London. Their son, Joe, experienced paralyzing anxiety about flying for the first time. Several failed attempts to re-board the plane have been made. For the last six weeks therapy, hypnosis, and a sedative injection were tried, but none have worked. Oddly, the boy has flown many pervious times without problems.
Do you have a fear of flying?
You’re not alone. According to many studies about 40 percent of people have anxiety associated with airline travel–even those who fly on a regular basis. Fear like being out of control, of crashing, claustrophobia, and with heightened security of TSA. Several of my friends refuse to fly because of one or more of those reasons. John has only flown once in his life and barely left the State he grew up in. Sparing emotional details he just says, “I don’t like it.” At one time he worked at an airport refueling planes—not sure if that helped or hindered the situation. But as fate would have it, John shall take the second flight of his life in two weeks. He called me when he booked tickets, and said he’d call me again to make sure he’s up-to-date on packing requirements for TSA. I’m sure I’ll hear from him while he’s waiting at the gate. Flying aside, he suffers from sensory overload problems which lead to panic attacks on a normal basis. As I’ve discovered, which I bet many of you have too, traveling opens great horizons. For many years John has said, “We gotta go to Ireland for your 30th birthday.” Now that is less than a year away. I hope his next flight is a pleasant experience.
I can relate to both Joe and John’s anxiety. Mine however was separation-anxiety linked to airline travel. When I was eight, my parents got divorced and as a result lived in different states. Twice a year I’d be put on the plane by one…and collected at the other end by another. At least, back in those days, passengers without tickets could accompany friends and family right up to the boarding gate. My, my have times changed…
That anxiety lasted well into my late teens before I gained control of it. However a different type cropped up last year when my Service Dog, Trinity and I prepared for our first flight together. Rather than starting small, we went straight to the big-leagues and flew internationally. And for an added challenge, I chose to depart from THE international airport linked to my childhood anxieties–Logan in Boston, Massachusetts. That turned out to be an extremely positive move, because every security personal we encountered was accustom to seeing Service Dogs! Within three months we took a total of eight flights spanning eleven times zones. Turns out my pre-flight anxiety was much worse. The airlines “misplaced” our bag in Paris for over an hour. Then the chaos got worse. We boarded the train where workers decided to strike, tripling the crowds of frustrated travelers on the first day of spring. What remains vivid about that first flight was the Steward who brought extra chicken treats for Trinity. The lost luggage attendant insisted on bringing her multiple cups of spring water while we waited. Everyone on the overcrowded train pushed and shoved each other but was extremely aware not to step on her tail. Unlike most people, my dogs’ favorite part of flying is the TSA pat down! It’s one of the few times she gets attention from someone other than me while in uniform.
Special note: If you happen to be a Service Dog Handler and are considering flying with your dog; please feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to chat further about my experiences to share more information.
Here are a few ideas to help battle flight anxiety:
1) For those of you technologically minded, “There’s an app for that!”
3) Captain Stacey Chance has put together a free online self-help course that also has an audio download so you can take it with you and listen on the flight!
But electronics aside, anxiety can also be relieved with pressure points. Ever wonder why the human reaction is to hug someone when they are upset? Without realizing, the exchange of a firm hug triggers good endorphins because of a point around ones collar bone. But obviously you can’t have someone hugging you the whole flight; so try these other points on your hands.
1) Pinching the “meat” of your hand between thumb and index finger
2) Pressing the indention of your wrist at the base of thumb
3) Pressing either side of your index finger at the tip and below the knuckle
For visual guidance check out this video.
Pressure point triggering is a task taught to Service Dogs for people with sensory issues. This is one of the tasks my dog does.
If you notice someone else who has a fear of flying, refrain from running up to hug them. A stranger might not be receptive to your thoughtful gesture. However, try to politely share about the pressure points on their hands.
Happy flying, everyone!