I hate aeroplane travel. I know, I know, it's the safest way to travel, cars are far more dangerous, blah blah, but the moment I'm strapped in and we're taking off — into the sky, which is not a place humans should go — all I can think is that I'm trapped in a silver gleaming death machine.
Photo: John McArthur (Unsplash)
With the aid of deep breathing and a light dosage of benzodiazepines, however, I'm usually fine once we're fully aloft. Unless, that is, turbulence starts in. That's when my palms start sweating and I grip the armrests and gasp at every dip and bump; worse, if I'm with someone else and/or anyone so much as glances at me sympathetically, I start crying.
Because isn't it so sad, how we're all going to die? And didn't we have a good life, one that we hardly appreciated until that very moment?
I know that turbulence doesn't cause plane crashes. I know this! I'm a goddamned life hacker, for god's sake. I should be downright serene when a little jostling distracts me from my viewing of "I, Tonya". And yet.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was on a plane and remembered this Lifehacker tip:
Instead of tensing up, focus on relaxing your muscles so that you move with the turbulence instead of against it. This can be hard to do, but it also gives you something else to think about.
I also remembered hearing this somewhere: just as you shouldn't worry about bumps on a road, you shouldn't worry about turbulence in an aeroplane. So I combined these two nuggets of wisdom into the following technique: I imagined that I was driving. I pictured my hands holding a steering wheel.
(I did not hold my hands up, because I am not insane.)
I felt myself hitting the gas pedal (in my mind). I rode the turbulence like we were on a dirt road, enjoying an adventure, not hurtling through the sky.
And just like that, the turbulence... stopped bothering me. I found myself even sort of enjoying it? It stopped being a thing that was going to kill me, and started to feel like just another part of the ride. Annoying, maybe, but hardly terror-inducing. I relaxed into the bumps and dips and focused on the (imaginary) road ahead.
I'm still amazed this worked as well as it did, and I'm looking forward to trying it out again.