On a recent trip to the United States, I experienced firsthand the increased security measures prevalent with air travel today. The pre-boarding security measures took on epic proportions, as I would be landing in Washington DC. Not only was I required to go through the standard screening process, I had to remove my shoes and jewelry, all of my luggage was opened, sifted through and sealed before it was checked, my purse and wallet were thoroughly examined, and I underwent at least two full body scans.
Everyone on the flight underwent the same exhaustive security measures. Then, while in air, we were told that no one would be allowed out of their seats for a full 30 minutes before landing, and that if anyone left their seat during that time, for any reason, the plane would be detoured to another airport for an emergency landing.
Now, I am a calm traveler, but even I was a bit unsettled by all of these directives. If I was at all nervous about air travel, wouldn’t all these security measures serve to exacerbate my fears?
“We can choose which perspective we take,” advises Lori-Ann Wesley, a holistic-based, certified psychotherapist. “We can see these security measures as threatening, a confirmation of our fears, or we can choose a rational approach, understanding that these measures make air travel even safer.”
Lori-Ann works with a number of patients who have fears concerning travel, from fear of air travel to fear of subways and buses, and being out in public places. She takes an individualized, tailored approach to each of her patients, using the best of traditional talk therapy, psychodrama, body-controlled psychotherapy and a range of other methods to achieve results.
“Some fears are rational and keep us from harm. But other fears are based in pre-conceived notions based on misconceptions. People start to “awfulize” their thoughts, feeding their concerns with a range of terrible and unlikely future outcomes. Breathing becomes quick and shallow, and eventually fear takes over, causing panic attacks,” says Lori-Ann. “By directing your thoughts appropriately and grounding yourself in the present, you can calm yourself down and think clearly.”
The techniques described below can be used in any situation where you are irrationally afraid;
Breathe slowly and deeply. Count your breaths. Four slow counts in and four slow counts out to start. Gradually increase the count. Focus on taking deep breaths, pulling the air into your belly. Close your eyes, if it helps. Concentrate on your breathing until it becomes stable and calm.
Initiate self dialog. Give yourself a command word like STOP that breaks the cycle of your thoughts. Let your adult self talk and calm your inward frightened child.
Visualize. Choose to focus on positive outcomes. See yourself in a safe and comforting place. Imagine someone with you who is calm and trustworthy. Surround yourself with good thoughts that nurture wellbeing.
Focus inward. Shift your perspective to that of being an observer. “Watch” yourself getting panicky and then pull back and say “my mind is trying to go down this path. It is time to stop.” Bring your energy inward, and gently let go of your anxieties.
“It is important to understand that we can not be in total control of everything. Being in control all the time is too great a burden for anyone to take on,” counsels Lori-Ann. “The opposite of fear is trust and love. You have to trust in the ultimate rightness of the universe.”