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The Unexpected Way I Coped With Plane Anxiety Before My Last Trip

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I hate flying. I don’t do heights and I can’t stand feeling trapped in a small space. Unfortunately for me, flying is the perfect love child of those fears. Throw in the fact that I have literally no control over anything on a plane other than my own actions, and you’ve hit the anxiety jackpot. I actually didn’t fly at all for 12 years of my life until my senior year of college, when I forced myself to do the damn thing.

A few weekends ago I took a trip to Los Angeles to visit my sister who lives and goes to school down there. I was excited to see her, but a little stressed as it was the first time I’d be returning to LA after I’d moved back to northern California. On top of that, I was in a funky mood a day or two before I left because the flight to Los Angeles is literally one hour long but I was already starting to panic. The whole process of packing, getting to the airport, going through security and waiting around just to board the plane and then have the real anxiety set in was not sounding all that appealing.

In all honesty, my fear of flying makes me feel super silly. I know plenty of people have the same concern, but to me it’s always felt incredibly limiting. Add in the fact that flying is actually super safe (trust me, I’ve done my research) and cue the internal war that comes with such an irrational fear. And of course, when I start thinking about one thing I’m afraid of, my brain says, Why stop there? What other perfectly normal things or situations scare you for some unexplained reason? So the self-deprecating spiral begins.

But this time, I tried something new. I made a list of things that scare me, stared at it feeling totally ridiculous, and then decided to make a list of things that don’t scare me. It wasn’t a long list and it didn’t include anything cool like “bungee jumping off a cliff” or “swimming with sharks.” But it’s a teeny tiny reminder that not every single thing in my life is scary.

So here it is, my non-exhaustive list of things I’m not afraid of — the product of a late night and a lot of self-doubt.

Things I’m not afraid of:

1. Going to the dentist
2. Making eye contact
3. My ex-boyfriends
4. Interacting with people one-on-one
5. Standing up for myself
6. Public speaking (out of character, but true)
7. Driving in city downtowns
8. Parallel parking
9. Getting older
10. Rain
11. Talking to boys
12. Getting (small) tattoos
13. Being alone
14. Being single
15. Talking to my family about real life things
16. People who aren’t the same as me

And there’s more. I know there’s more because I’ve been making a conscious effort to think more about what doesn’t scare me and obsess less about the things that do. Making this list didn’t take away my travel anxiety and it didn’t make me feel like superwoman, but it was at least a step in the right direction.

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Thinkstock photo via frankpeters.

Originally published: July 18, 2017
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