Flying Has Always Been Hard, COVID-19 Makes It Harder, But There Are Ways To Cope.

Published on June 17, 2020

Flying is a difficult endeavor for many of us, but it’s often a necessity of modern life. In the time before COVID-19, people struggled with air travel for a variety of reasons. Some are scared of physically being in the air, while others aren’t fond of the claustrophobic element. Many people struggle with what a pain it is to pack, wait in line, take off your shoes, and the whole process of the thing. Whatever the reason, flying can be very stressful, even in the best of times. Enter the pandemic.

COVID-19 has changed a great many aspects of our day to day lives. Everything from grocery shopping to school to going outside is different now. Flying is no exception. Given the nature of air travel, this isn’t exactly a surprise. Airlines design planes to fit as many people as close together as possible. They don’t exactly deep clean the planes after each flight. Airports are always packed, and the security line isn’t exactly ever six feet apart and sanitized. The whole thing is a logistical nightmare when it comes to virus prevention, but that doesn’t mean airlines aren’t trying.

Several airlines are now requiring masks to fly, although there are questions about how enforceable that is. Airlines are also suspending alcohol service to prevent contamination. These new regulations might help the spread of the novel coronavirus, but they may not do enough to ease passenger anxiety.

Practical Methods To Mitigate The Risk

The good news is, there are ways to manage. The best thing to do right now is to avoid traveling by plane if at all possible. For some of us, however, this just isn’t realistic. If flight can’t be feasibly avoided, make sure you’re prepared. Bring plenty of sanitizing wipes, and make sure you remember your face mask. Try to pick unpopular flights, like the red-eye, that are less likely to be jam-packed with people. Make sure to wash your hands whenever possible, and above all, just be smart.

Ways To Eliminate Stress

Flying during COVID-19 isn’t just about keeping the virus at bay. It’s also about managing stress and anxiety, something that is difficult, even in the best of times. I absolutely despise flying. It’s not the flying itself that gets me, it’s the germs and having that many strangers that close to me. And the claustrophobia. I’ve struggled with this for many years and developed some pretty solid ways to get through it, despite my discomfort.

First and foremost, entertainment is essential. Whether its a book or a movie or a podcast, having something to take your mind off of all the anxieties of travel is incredibly helpful. Put some time into finding something you are really going to engage with, that will make you forget how worried you are about viral particles.

I always try to pamper myself at the airport. I’ll buy myself a ridiculously overpriced cocktail and drink it slowly while reading my book. I’ll eat a pastry I normally wouldn’t allow myself, or I’ll go shopping in the airport bookstore. The idea is to try to make the experience as pleasant as possible with a little reward. It doesn’t necessarily lessen the anxiety, but it’s giving yourself a gold star for trying. It’s a pandemic, and it’s okay to treat yourself a little bit.

Get a good pair of headphones. I see people walking around airports and sitting on airplanes without headphones and it seems like an obscure form of torture. Headphones help block out the rest of the world, and if you’re feeling anxiety, the power of this cannot be underestimated. Listen to whatever makes you happy, and focus on those sounds instead of the dystopian landscape of face masked fellow passengers.

Remember to breathe. I know this is such canned advice when it comes to stress, but when you combine the stress of flying with a face covering, it’s easy to forget to take the occasional deep breath. Breathe, and try to remember that it’s all going to be okay.

Olivia Smith is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in San Francisco, she covers events, entertainment, fashion, and technology. She also serves as a Voices contributor at PopSugar.

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