How mindfulness can help ease travel anxiety
Aussies put air travel fourth on the list of their most common fears so it's no wonder travel anxiety grips more than half the population.
Not sure if you're experiencing travel anxiety? Look out for these symptoms:
increased heart rate
shortness of breath
What is mindfulness and how can it help?
Mindfulness is a practice that helps us learn how to notice our thoughts, but reduce our responsiveness to them. It helps us regulate how we respond and gives us an opportunity to take control of our reactions and emotions. Mindfulness helps us bring our mind back to the present moment, to notice what we're doing and focus less on what might happen in the future and more on what is happening right now.
We know that we spend about 47% of our lives thinking about something other than what we are doing right now and for someone who is anxious about flying, that might mean that almost half the day, or the entire flight, is spent imagining the worst.
In-flight meditation is a useful technique for managing flying anxiety. It helps you reconnect with your body, regulate your breathing and slow your heart rate, which we know is accelerated when people are anxious. Meditation teaches you how to recognise when your mind wanders to those negative thoughts and how to bring your mind back to the 'now' and stop the unhelpful thinking and worry.
Here's some tips to keep your anxiety at bay while flying.
- Try a Smiling Mind Meditation on Virgin Australia's In-flight Entertainment System
You can find a selection of meditations to try onboard your Virgin Australia flight. There's even some for your kids! Plug in your headphones, close your eyes and hit play...it's as simple as that. After the flight you can even download the free Smiling Mind app to keep up your mindfulness practice.
- Just breathe
If you find yourself feeling anxious, inhale for three seconds, hold for three seconds and exhale for four seconds. It's almost impossible to panic while you're actively controlling your breathing and it helps reduce the cortisol release into your body, the powerful stress hormone that's triggered when you're anxious.
- Recognise and then let unhelpful thoughts move on
Our minds are thinking machines and we're actually hard-wired (from an evolutionary perspective) to focus on the negative. Pay attention to your thoughts, ask yourself where your mind is right now, and if it's a negative thought coming up, notice that thought but don't start a conversation with it. Try and watch that thought pass you by - just like the clouds in the sky. Acknowledge it and let it move on.
- Talk to the cabin crew
Remember, they're human too! If you're afraid, simply make yourself known to the cabin crew and they will check-in with you throughout your flight. Sometimes a conversation about something else can be enough to distract you from any fears you might have.
- Use the time to disconnect
Often people talk about a flight being their one bit of downtime in the day. Use this time to reflect on where you're at and what you're grateful for in your life. You can actually change your brain to be more positively focused if you stop every day and reflect on things you're grateful for.
We hope these tips will help you feel more at ease for your next Virgin Australia flight.