It’s easy to get stressed when you’re boarding a flight, especially if you don’t fly frequently. There’s so much to worry about these days: lost luggage, a delayed flight, missed connections, jostling for space in the overhead bins, eccentric people sitting next to you, you name it.
But with a few suggestions from frequent travellers, you may soon find yourself relaxing — even looking forward — to your next long-haul adventure.
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Here are five great tips from the pros:
Pack something that’s warm and reminds you of home
Always pack something comfortable — and comforting — to wrap yourself in.
Some people are fine with those plastic-wrapped static-y blankets that are provided free on flights. Others (I, for one) are not. I would rather pack my own blanket or wrap, even if it means sacrificing a few inches of valuable carry-on space. I never travel without a large black pashmina scarf, even if I’m heading on vacation to a warm beach destination. Flights are often cold, and I like to snuggle in something that smells like home. It instantly makes me feel less stressed and, a bonus: the black colour hides any red wine spills and lipstick smudges.
Marilyn Smith is Canadian, but for almost 20 years, she has called Paris, France home. She travels frequently by train and plane for work, and she never goes anywhere without a four-buck wrap from Gap that she bought in 2013. “It has been with me on every flight since,” says Smith, Executive Director of The Energy Action Project (EnAct). “Twice, I have run back down long airport hallways to retrieve it. I consider it the best value I’ve ever gotten from any piece of clothing — or any $4!”
Stop the noise
Buy noise-cancelling headphones — or the closest thing that you can afford. Really. There are so many options these days. Just pick a pair and splurge. The crying babies, the snoring person next to you — you won’t hear a thing until your pilot is preparing for landing and a flight attendant is reminding you to come back to reality.
My two teenagers pack the AirPods Pro , wireless Bluetooth speakers from Apple. My husband likes his Bang and Olufsen Beoplay rechargeable pair; I will vouch for the fact that I could be screaming my lungs out 20 feet from him, and he wouldn’t hear a thing.
And me, I like the House of Marley Uplift earbuds. They’re not wireless and they may not be quite as noise-cancelling as the others, but the price was right (about $40) and I can use them to conduct phone interviews when I’m on the road, too. They’re the pair that’s right for me.
Be gentle with yourself — and others
You may be tempted to lose your cool if you get easily stressed. But that will only make your day — and that of others — worse. “Yet it doesn’t cost anything extra to be nice,” my dad used to remind me when I was little.
Instead, try to be gentle with yourself — and the people you deal with as you go on your journey. That includes flight attendants, the people who handle your luggage, the people sitting next to you and, really, everyone you meet as you go along your journey.
“Just be kind and compassionate to yourself and others,” says Ariana Rose Brackenbury. She’s a Calgary-based life coach, a long-time traveller and a renowned tour guide on spiritually significant pilgrimages throughout Europe. In May 2020, she’ll lead a small group on a Mary Magdalene Pilgrimage in France.
Breathe. And stretch — if you can
If you can, before your flight, find a quiet spot at the airport and take some time before you board to stretch and take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes. Count to 100. Keep breathing. Slowly. Gently. If you know yoga, practice a few moves now. If you meditate, take a few deep breaths.
If you’re looking to learn more, download a yoga or meditation app and just follow along. The Calm app is fantastic; and when you’re seated and on your journey, check your in-flight entertainment system as many offer well-curated meditation sessions for travellers these days.
And whether you’re in the terminal or on the flight, don’t worry about the people around you. They’re just wishing they were as relaxed as you’ll be when you’re done.
Remember that the ability to travel is a blessing
Take a deep breath and think about how lucky you are to travel. And look at your trip as an opportunity to enjoy our beautiful world and some solo time — even if you spend your flight next to others. “There is great spiritual replenishment to be enjoyed when walking the streets of a new city alone and being lost in a wonderful and exotic anonymity,” says Jean Grand-Maitre, frequent flyer and the artistic director of Alberta Ballet. “Strangely enough, this is often when we reconnect with our most intimate inner selves.”
If necessary, seek professional help
If you have to fly for work or life, but you find it’s just getting more and more stressful, seep professional help. Talk to your doctor or a trusted healthcare worker about your fears. They may have suggestions that aren’t mentioned here, such as classes that teach people to cope with flying anxiety.
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