This post was originally posted on jessicalemmon.com
There are a lot of underlying causes for anxiety. These causes seem to mix themselves up into a cocktail (shaken and stirred) and arrive at the perfect, personalized freak-out potion. I’ve had run-ins and TKOs from anxiety for years, and while I’m not claiming to be absolutely anxiety-proof, I have managed to live in a place where I understand how the mind works and my role in it. While I can’t claim to know what your particular cocktail is, I can tell you what helped with one very specific fear in my life.
I cured my fear of flying in a matter of minutes.
Recently my husband and I went to San Francisco and then to wine country to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. He surprised me with the trip, booking the flight and the room without telling me where we were going for two reasons: #1, he wanted to surprise me and #2, he knew I couldn’t even talk about where to sit on the airplane or the cost of a checked bag without freaking out about the flight. Even sitting in my home on my sofa, I could work myself into a heart-pounding, sweaty mess over the idea of flying on a plane.
So what’s the deal? Did I have some traumatic event that scarred me? Well. Kind of? I had a rough flight one time, twenty years ago. We were stuck in the air circling the airport for a good 45 minutes because there was so much ice on the runway they had to clear it for us to land. Our plane was the last of two to touch down, had to be towed to the building, and it was New Years Day and there wasn’t a hotel in sight that had a vacancy. Also, there were seven of us including my husband, my brother, and four cousins who were all younger than me! We spent hours in the airport stranded until they were able to arrange a travel bus for us to board and make the long seven-plus hour bus ride home.
I’ve flown several times since then. And every time I’ve had anxiety. I’ve managed to sit on the plane and distract myself well enough to get through it and not cause a scene, but it’s never been comfortable.
Until last week. Our flight from Ohio to California not only comfortable, but relaxing! Who am I?! How is this even happening?! I wondered. So… how did I get there? Was it sheer human will? An answer of prayer? Maybe a bit of both.
Here are some of the methods I believe helped me overcome the fear of flying:
I recently started visualizing again. Making goals and seeing them on the screen of my mind. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to my visions. I had been doing it every day for three weeks before I skipped the week we were gone, and already I’m missing it! Note to self: get back into visualizing first thing in the morning!
How I Visualize:
Find a great piece of music without words and set a timer for 15-20 minutes, or however much time you can allow to visualize that morning. Even 5 minutes is better than no minutes! (Recommended: the Tide app is free, has a wonderful reminder feature each and every day and also has great music. It’s also relatively inexpensive if you do decide on paying for some of the other features.
Make a list of what you want to DO, HAVE, and BE. There are lots of ways to come up with your list, but I used the tips in the book The Success Principles as a guide. During my visualization time, I read the item on the list, close my eyes and let the music and the visual take over. For example, I imagine my future house and walk through it room by room, or sometimes straight up to my future office overlooking the water. (My favorite room!)
FEEL the feelings of having all those things, of doing what you dream of doing, of being who you long to be. Infuse your body with the emotions and then when you get there, you’ll know just how to react because you’ve been there in your mind 100 times before.
When I’m done with my visualization exercise, I read my affirmations. These change and the list grows, and some of them fall off when they become hardwired into my mind.
If you don’t have affirmations yet, here are a few general guidelines to writing them:
State them in the positive. Don’t say “I’m grateful I’m not afraid to fly on a plane,” instead say “I am enjoying the thrill and convenience of flying.”
Start where you are. Even if it’s outlandish and you don’t believe it, write and say them anyway. If you’re afraid of driving you might say, “I am now enjoying the freedom and bliss of driving myself to the store.”
Here are a few of mine if you want to use them: “Money comes easily and frequently as I do what I love. Everything goes right for me. I’m not getting older, I’m getting younger.” Say them with feeling and a smile on your face, even if you don’t believe them at first! You will. But repetition is key.
I’m going to be the first to say that I’m not a regular meditator! But I find myself running back to it whenever I feel the twinge of anxiety, or need to put good thought into my head before bed.
Recommended: I love Kris Carr’s meditation albums. I have both of them! She has a soothing, easy-breezy method and her meditations are quick! From 3 minutes to no longer than 14 minutes. She even has a few tracks that are music only.
How I meditate:
Find a comfortable place to sit where you can be still or quiet for the length of time it takes to complete a meditation.
Put your phone in airplane mode.
Kris’s meditations are mostly prompts! Isn’t that great news? All you have to do is sit there and do what she says.
Okay, so this one is brand new to my life and what I attribute to solving the “OMG I HAVE TO FLY” fear that lived so prevalently in my being. Although, I will say a combination of all of these tools helped calm my nerves! I don’t know a lot about tapping, and there are experts upon experts on YouTube and who have written entire books on the topic. But since I’m a Cliff’s Notes kind of girl, I took what I learned in the book The Success Principles and ran with it!
If this sounds woo-woo and kind of goofy, I assure you—that’s nothing to how it feels doing it! LOL. I felt like a complete goober, so trust me when I say THAT’S NORMAL. Do it anyway. It worked for me and I didn't have a single assurance that it would.
I tried tapping away a few other “problems” after I read the section on tapping, but I didn’t feel much change afterward. Later, I determined that it was because I was starting with “easy” things rather than the BIG scary ones that would require me to feel actual panic just thinking about it. Do you have a fear that makes you nervous just by thinking about it?
PICK THAT ONE.
Choose to tap away the thing that makes you sweaty and shaky or even just jumpy on the inside. That is the emotion you want to call forth before you tap! That’s what you want to feel so that when you bring your awareness to this fear, you can tap it away like magic.
And it did work like magic.
It was about 3 AM one night. My husband had told me where we were going earlier that day and that he’d booked the flight and I was like *brittle smile* “Okay!” I was determined to willpower my way through it. We all know willpower is a Band-Aid, right? You have to have more tools in your toolbox than just will! Will will fail you every time. Especially for a fear that is visceral. So I woke up that night during the wee hours with images of security at the airport and turbulence on the plane. My heart was pounding, my mind racing, and my palms sweating.
I decided to try that tapping thing I learned about.
With 3 fingers on the “karate chop” part of my hand, I tapped (hard enough to feel it but not hard enough to bruise) about 5 to 7 times while I mentally said this phrase: “Even though I’m afraid to fly on an airplane, I completely love and accept myself.”
Then I moved to the other “tapping points” (top of the head, wide part of the eyebrow, side of the eye, under the nose, chin, collarbone, armpit) using just 2 fingers to tap 3-5 times per point while repeating my fear. I did this silently so I wouldn’t wake up my husband, but you get the idea. You can vary your statement as well. For example, I alternated between “I am afraid to fly” and “I am afraid the plane will crash.”
Now if you’re thinking, “Jessica, those are all negative things you’re saying to yourself! How does that help?!” I get it! I had the same question and concern. But I trusted the process, and Jack Canfield who compiled the information in his book, so I just did it.
When you start tapping, your fear and anxiety should be around an 8 or a 9, or even a 10. As you do one round, then two, then three, you should feel that anxiety lessen. Remarkably, during round SIX of my tapping and right in the middle of saying that I was afraid the plane would crash, I took a deep, cleansing, calming breath. I didn’t try to. It just happened naturally. And then I stopped tapping, because I realized that my level 9 nerves were barely a 1 now.
The next morning through afternoon I felt like I was getting sick. I was nauseous, sort of dizzy and feeling generally “blah” and my gut was telling me that those ill feelings were thanks to tapping out all the crap that had lived in the various points of my body. Those dirty, ugly emotions were in my bloodstream and now I was infected with them! I drank a lot of lemon water and kept saying kind things to myself. I imagined every exhale releasing those toxins, and later that day I felt fantastic.
I kept waiting for my fear to return.
To wake me in the middle of the night with sharp claws and pointy teeth. To return while I was packing for my trip, or while I was driving to the airport, or while taking my shoes off for security. Other than a few blips of normal nerves (“Did I forget to turn off my curling iron?!), it didn’t happen. And when I boarded the plane, I used what I’d learned in meditation and in my visualizations to remind myself that Future Jessica was a fantastic flyer. That being flown across the country was akin to having a limo driver take care of you while you sip wine in your seat and watch a movie on your iPad. I also utilized a breathing technique I’d learned to trigger my body’s relaxation response. (The 4/4/4 method: inhale for the count of four, hold for the count of four, exhale for the count of four. Repeat 3 times.)
I was so thrilled about flying with zero anxiety for five hours that I nearly cried when we touched down in San Francisco. I’d always dreamed of going to California but I let my fears hold me back.
I’m not saying I’m completely free of every having anxiety ever again, but now I know the techniques for resetting the brain and helping my mind rest. I can use them over and over again to re-conquer this fear or take on a new one.
There is a fantastic blog by Bob Proctor that touches on visualization if you want to delve deeper into this topic. You can find it here.