We’ve talked about ways to help a young child get comfortable with the idea of flying in a small plane. But what about those of us rational, level headed adults who have a fear of flying? When you are ready to take your first trip with Angel Flight West, we want you to have a relaxing and enjoyable experience.
If you’re nervous about flying to medical treatment, you can use breathing exercises to help calm you during your first flight, or when you’re waiting in the doctor’s office, or any time you want a little mental break.
You can practice breathing techniques in any setting. To begin, adjust your position to be as comfortable as you can, whether you are sitting, standing or lying down. Then try one of these techniques:
1. Counted breaths: Begin by focusing on your breathing, in and out through your nose if possible. Observe your breath for three in-and-out cycles. On your next inhalation, breathe in to a slow count of three, and breathe out to a slow count of four. Repeat five times. If you can, try to increase your counts, breathing in to a count of four, and breathing out to a count of six.
2. Straw breath: Purse your lips like you are sipping through a straw. This can be relaxed; the point is to make a small “O” with your mouth. Inhale slowly through your mouth, counting if you like. Pause briefly when your lungs are full, and then exhale slowly through your mouth, keeping the O shape during the exercise. Repeat your inhale and exhale, sipping the air in and out as if through a straw. You may notice the air coming in feels cooler than with regular breathing.
3. Tension and release: If you’re nervous, your muscles are probably already a little tense, so you’re already on your way to employing this next technique. To begin, take a deep breath in, and make fists with your hands (careful of your fingernails). As you exhale, release your fists and relax. Breathe in again, make fists, and clench your arms to your sides, holding the tension all the way up into your shoulders. Exhale and relax everything. Repeat as much as you’d like. If the setting allows, you can extend the tension and release to your legs, neck and shoulders and even scrunch up your face on an inhalation, and relax your whole body as you exhale.
For any of these techniques, your eyes may be open or closed, and you may repeat the breathing method for as long as you like.
All of these methods can be practiced just about anywhere to help you calm your fear of flying, and they’re all pretty subtle. If you’re waiting in the lounge for your flight with one of our commercial partners, no one will notice a little breathing practice. And if you’re with one of our Angel Flight West volunteer pilots, we don’t mind breathing and we’ll do everything possible to make you comfortable on the flight as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of our pilots, or let them know that you’re a little nervous. They can often help by explaining what’s going on.