Every time I approach an airport, my stomach flips and then fills with butterflies. Big ones. It’s that kind of feeling you get when you are sitting on a roller coaster that’s about to begin. It doesn’t matter which airport, if I am coming or going, or if I am dropping someone off or picking them up. I always have the same feeling deep down in the pit of my stomach as soon as an airport comes into sight.
I’m not afraid of flying, actually I love it, and surprisingly over the past 20+ years of frequent flying, I have never missed a flight. So I cannot say that this is the cause for my airport anxiety. There is something else that is sparking this automatic response every time I am in the vicinity of an airport.
I began to notice this feeling about fifteen years ago when I took my husband (then boyfriend) to the Melbourne International airport. He was about to begin a contract onboard a cruise ship and, for the first time, I would not be going with him. I had recently begun a business administration course and fully intended to complete it. Which in turn, also meant that we would be apart for almost six months. Six months! That feeling of pure dread as we approached the airport was so strong. I had felt nerves when heading to the airport before, but nothing like this. My stomach was flipping, I felt sick to my stomach, my heart was pounding and the tears were overflowing at the thought of saying goodbye. We parked the car in the short term parking and went inside the terminal with him to check in his luggage. We knew that we needed to head to the departure gate and security, but that also meant having to say goodbye, so we delayed and avoided heading in that general direction for as long as possible. This hour or so was torturous. From this point onwards, I would always have a feeling of dread when driving into an airport.
I began to associate airports with saying goodbye to someone I loved. Being Australian and having a Dutch partner meant that we have often had to say goodbye to each other at one airport or another over the years. Not to mention the countless times I have had to say goodbye to my family when flying out of Australia. This now means that even when flying together with my husband and children for a family holiday, or picking someone up that I am excited to see, I still have that same feeling in my stomach! So it seems that this response has been imprinted and no matter the reason for being at the airport, my stomach always flips and the nerves set in as soon as I see the signs for Arrivals and Departures.
The Emotional Turmoil of Terminals
Airports are simply oozing with emotions. Whether it be couples waiting for each other at the arrival gates, or families separating at departures. Wherever you are in any airport, you will always see both happy and sad tears all around you. I am convinced that this is the cause of my airport anxiety. It’s the anticipation of the emotions that come with being there, at the airport, in the first place. Over the years, I have found a couple of simple tricks that seem to help with my airport anxiety.
Drops Offs – Make them Quick
We have since realised that a quick drop and go works much better for us. We don’t even park the car in the airport parking garage anymore. If we ever need to drop each other off at the airport, we simply drive up to departures, stop the car where we can (keeping the ignition on), unload the luggage, give a quick kiss and cuddle goodbye, then leave. Short and sweet is the key to an easier goodbye.
Taking a few deep breaths can make all the difference. I know, it sounds so simple, but it’s often the simplest things that are the most effective. As soon as I begin to feel anxious, a few deep breaths really do wonders. Once you’ve arrived at the airport on time, have gone through security and found your gate, take the time to find a seat, put your phone away, close your eyes and breathe. Breathing deeply can slow down your heart rate, relax your body, and ease you out of anxiety mode.
Recognise Your Trigger
So I have figured out the root to my airport anxiety. However, there are many other reasons why people suffer from airport anxiety – which is an actual thing by the way. A few examples of other triggers can be getting there on time, the crowds, security, the queues, finding your gate, taking off and landing, and finding your bags at the other end. Once you recognise what your trigger is, you may be able to discover a way to minimise the anxiety associated with it; arriving early with plenty of time to spare, or traveling with hand luggage only when possible for example.
Do you suffer form airport anxiety and, if so, what do you think the main trigger is for you?