Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another airline tragedy--putting it into perspective

This week I was as shocked as everyone else after learning about the plane being shot down over Ukraine. As a nervous person and someone with a history of a fear of flying, I responded to the tragedy perhaps more severely than many people.

My imagination was on fire, as we say in Recovery. I fly frequently, and I found myself wondering what it must have been like for those tragic souls onboard that flight. I talked to several co-workers about my fear of flying. I was working myself up into a frenzy.

I soon realized that in order to protect my mental health, I would need to distance myself from the news coverage. Avoiding hearing more about the tragedy will be difficult in the coming weeks, but I’ve decided to not focus on or obsess over the situation. I acknowledged that talking about my fear of flying with my co-workers did nothing but upset me—I got goose bumps, my eyes became blurry, and my breathing became shallow.

These symptoms are average for me after an airline disaster and, to put the situation in perspective, I don’t have them often, as such tragedies are quite rare. I’m also providing myself with secure thoughts, acknowledging how exponentially safer flying is than driving, for example. I can’t control my feelings and sensations, but I certainly can control my thoughts and impulses.

Flying is part of my job—there’s no way to avoid it, and I wouldn’t want to. I enjoy seeing new places and meeting new people. This rare tragedy is causing me discomfort, but through my Recovery training I am able to put such feelings into perspective. My heart goes out to the families of the victims, but obsessing over the situation will certainly not help anyone.

9 comments:

Kirsty said...

You're right, perspective is key here! I have a month of bus and plane travel planned next month in Europe and I have also worked myself up about the recent tragedies, to the point where I was close to just cancelling it all. I took some steps back and I'm starting to look forward to it now.

Melissa said...

I have never been an "easy" flyer thought I travel by plane several times a year. Like you, when a disaster happens I put myself in the victim's shoes and end up imagining how they felt or what was going through their minds. It's a horrible, anxiety producing exercise. I really have to practice thought stopping and, like you, remind myself of how safe flying is and how much I enjoy going new places and seeing new things. Thank you for making me feel "normal" about my fears.

Valdone Tucker said...

I felt exactly like you did after hearing about the Malaysian airline being shot down. I am a nervous flyer and this did not help. I have learned through my anxiety that one should avoid the News where possible. Of course this was not your ordinary News and it was everywhere I turned. I simply prayed for the souls on the flight and their families and this seemed to get me through. So it was nice to know that my fears and anxieties were not so unusual. Thank you.

Doug said...

Thank you, Kirsty, Melissa, and Valdone for your comments. Since I wrote this post there was another airline tragedy in West Africa. We need to remember Dr. Low's advice to "do the things we fear and hate to do" and not allow the fear of the exceptional dominate our lives. Any airline tragedy is exceptionally rare, and three in such a short period is exceedingly rare.

Abby Gardiner said...

Great post. I think that so much of the problem with anxiety is that people really believe they must immerse themselves in WORLD stress and WORLD news, and this is such an unhealthy (common) obsession. Those of us who are anxious need to take a step back from the very things that raise our stress metres. And, like you said, when we do hear bad news? To remember common sense: that the world may seem on a 24/7 cycle of "negative", but there is much more in this world that is good.

Matt said...
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Cathy said...

Great post. My next vacation is coming up in December and we are planning to fly.. seeing all of this in the news just makes my stomach turn when I think about leaving my home and flying to another country.. but reading this really did help put it into perspective for me. Thanks!

Chris B. said...

This is interesting as I know someone who is the opposite- flew in the military fo 20 years and flying does not bother him. Is it a desensitization thing?
Could it be that since he knows all about flying that knowledge. familiarity has somehow done away with the anxiety?

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