Thursday, November 17, 2011

10 proven tools to conquer your fear of flying

There's no getting around it; holidays mean travel. And a fear of flying makes holiday travel all the more stressful. Guest blogger Erika McQuade has tried a variety of fear-of-flying programs and products and offers some tips here to custom-design your own self-help program.

For 13 years, I could not get on a plane. I tried to no avail, but my fear of flying prevailed. And I lost a lot in the process. Between losing money and missing family events and business meetings and opportunities, I knew I had to nip this in the bud. Four years ago, after trying every single fear-of-flying remedy (no joke), I took matters into my own hands, and now I can say that I still hate flying, but can do it if needed. And that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to like it, but you just need to learn how to deal with it. Why? You will miss out on L-I-F-E. There may be a great trip to go on, or a family visit, or a family emergency or an important business meeting. The feeling that you get when you make it to the other side, knowing that you’ll be able to enjoy where you are, is like NO OTHER.

Here are my tips to get to the other side:  

1. Recognize and Research. Figure out why you don’t want to fly. Do you have a fear of heights? Do you get motion sickness? Do you not like having control over your transportation? Hate turbulence? I can answer “yes” to all of these questions. Once you recognize your fears, you need to go to a credible source to research the facts (e.g. Google: US statistics fear of flying). What you’ve heard and allowed your mind to formulate is most likely incorrect. It really is safer for you to fly then to pull out of your driveway in the morning. When you hear about flying accidents, those are one in millions.

Side note: I HATE turbulence. Absolutely hate it. (I mean, who really likes it?) When I was trying all of these techniques listed here, I hit some bad turbulence that almost sent me over the edge. I must have said a thousand times in flight, "I’ll never fly again." I refused to believe that the pilots knew what they were doing, the plane was not going to fall out of the sky and it was going to be over soon. You’ll see what I did to get through this bad time as you continue.  

2. Throw out the trauma. If you’re like me, and have been traumatized by flying before, you need to take the trauma and "throw it out the window." Easier said than done, right? Once you have credible facts (see Tip #1), you will see that these notions may still linger in your head, but you will be able to push them to the side, at least for the trip.

Side note: The first time I flew, I was sitting next to an elderly man who said to me, “Well, when your time’s up, your time’s up,” as we were flying over the coast looking at the water below. From that point on, I went into fight-or-flight mode, where everything on my body was tingly, I had the chills, I was severely nauseous and I couldn’t open up my hands. What a wonderful experience!

3. Mind over matter. Saying to yourself (repeatedly), “I have to go, I have to go,” won’t necessarily help. The more you focus on it, the more control you’re letting “it” have over you. Why let something like this have that much control over YOU? You’re more powerful than that. So take those detrimental thoughts and take control of them! Again, you don’t have to like the flight, you just have to get through it.

4. Know exactly what you’re in for. Know the sounds the plane is going to make before it takes off. Check your flight before leaving to see if it is delayed. Know that when taking off you’re going to feel the speed a bit, but once you lift off, you won’t feel it. 

5. Don’t rush. Leave enough time to check in, but not too much because you don’t want too much time to overthink. 

6. Fear-of-flying products or services may not work. I tried everything in the past. But nothing worked. I found creating a customized package for me worked.

7. Repeat this phrase in flight: “I’m okay.” This phrase is what got me through any flight. If we hit turbulence and I started to freak out, I muttered these words over and over in my head. Think about it. YOU REALLY ARE OK. Not that you have to repeat the phrase throughout the entire flight (if it helps, then by all means do so), but do it for the times when you need it most.

8. Create your own space and bring comfort tools. Invest in an iPod, and go to iTunes to download your favorite songs and movies. Make sure you are listening to your favorite song or are watching your favorite movies, especially during ascending and decending so that you stay occupied. For relaxing music, I recommend Beegie Adair. Reading didn’t help me, but it may help you, so try bringing a few favorite reads. 

9. Don’t do a test run. In your research, you may see recommendations to do a test run before the big day. Think about this. A test run means test, not the real thing – basically you can opt out, making you fear the big day when it arrives because then you HAVE to do it. 

10. Look out the window. I HATE HEIGHTS. I’m the type who cannot go near the edge railing on the second floor of a mall. Yet when I was able to look out the window to see what was happening with the plane, I was totally fine. Once you’re up in the air, you can put yourself at ease by appreciating that you made it into the sky. And when you’re descending, you can start to calm yourself by saying that the flight is almost over – and that you almost made it to the other side!

Bonus Tip: If you have a bad experience going to your destination, don’t let it ruin your trip. When I was first learning how to conquer my fear, I was heading to Las Vegas to my sister-in-law’s wedding. I knew I had to go, which gave me extra motivation, and flying with my husband definitely helped. We had to get a connecting flight, which I was not happy about. Well, from White Plains, NY to Atlanta, GA, I was on a tiny plane, on which I got very sick because I took too much anti-anxiety medication. We got to Atlanta (still very sick ), and had to run to catch our next flight. Then I was stuck for over four hours on a plane that had turbulence, and I was throwing up all over the place. We finally got to Vegas, and I was like, “There is no way in hell I’m getting back on a plane.” But how else was I going to get back? Drive? It was hard, but I knew that I couldn’t let my fear ruin things. I would have lost out on the awesomeness of what was happening. So I just let go, and didn’t think about it until the morning we flew back. I focused on how exciting it would be to finally get home. And the flights back were a BREEZE!

I would be glad to help you if you have a fear-of-flying issue, so please feel free to contact me if you need to: Erikamcquade[at]gmail[dot]com.  

Erika McQuade is an online marketing communications (PR and social media) coach who helps start-ups, mompreneurs and small businesses launch and expand online organically, maximize the return on investment and turn buzz in to profit.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Don’t kill the cows! A fun car game for the trip to Grandma’s house

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. How is that possible?

If you’ve got a long, holiday road trip ahead, it’s good to have a few tricks up your sleeve to keep antsy kids quiet. (And sometimes kids get antsy after about five minutes.)

This is a car game to play while driving through the rural countryside. You may remember from your own childhood that while adults just love to stare out the window for hours kids get unbelievably bored looking at fields, telephone poles and yes, cows.

Materials needed: none


1. Each person looks out their window to spot animals on their side of the road. You can play teams with the right side of the car versus the left.

2. For each animal you spot, you get 1 point. (Older kids may assign a complicated point system with unusual animals like, say, a guinea pig, getting the most points.)

3. Grownups should make it a point to imitate all the animals. When a child says, “A cow!” adults should say, “Moooo.”

4. Birds don’t count (except turkeys, which are worth 1,000 points).

5. When you pass a cemetery on your side of the car, all your animals "die." Then you have to start over.

6.  When the animals "die," everyone should be suitably grief-stricken.

7. Play until a set point (like a rest stop) and then announce the winner. 

Prizes are always appreciated, but it might be best to have one for everybody in such close quarters.

Buckle up for safety! And moo!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cool fort! Building a hideout gets kids outdoors

Classic fort structure: Way too low for an adult to get into

A fort is a kids-only shelter – that’s what makes it fun. And the idea of building one will get your kids off the couch and into the great outdoors.

If it’s not too snowy, you can do it like this: 

1. Pick the perfect spot. 

Scout out an existing support that you can build your fort against. This might be a tree, a bush, a fence or a big rock. Or even the side of your house. 

2. Gather together your materials.

Grab up anything you can possibly build with, like sticks, branches, logs and old lumber - whatever you can find.

3. Build the fort, like this: 

• After you choose a good spot next to a supporting structure, clear out the floor space. You can lay a tarp on the ground if you want to, but either way clear the space of sticks, twigs, rocks and poky things.

• Make a frame using big pieces of wood by leaning and criss-crossing them against your supporting structure.

• Once you have the frame in place and the walls started, anything your kids can drag, lug or gather to weave into or lean on the frame 
will make the fort take shape and give it special character.

• Don't boss the kids around too much. Sure, I want a professional-looking fort as much as the next control freak, but if my 4 year old wants to spend the whole time decorating a log with pinecones, I let her.

Pinecone decor

• Make sure to plan in some windows and a door. 

• Make a roof out of branches.

• Hold a secret meeting. Elect officers.

4. In case of snow: 

Build a snow fort if the snow is sticky enough, by rolling giant balls of snow (à la snowman) until you achieve big blocks. Pile the blocks up into a circle or semi-circle and cover them with a tarp. 

Or just build a quick tent - run a rope between two trees and sling a tarp over it. Weigh down the edges of the tarp with rocks. Done, and kids love this - it's like magic how fast you can build this tent from scratch.

Bundle up and have a great time!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween round-up 2011

Halloween was Fang-tastic this year! (pumpkin on a Cobble Hill, Brooklyn stoop)

Happy day after Halloween! It's been a super-fun Halloween season and I thought I'd share some of my favorite moments of October, 2011 with you.

First off, a big shout-out to my Twitter friends and my friends on Facebook. I know that when it's time to discuss the relative merits of smooth vs. warty pumpkins or the true meaning of Play-Doh Ghosts, you guys will jump into the debate! Thanks.

Also, it was really fun talking to the variety of journalists who interviewed me and wrote articles about me and my Halloween book, Real Family Halloween Fun. Many of these folks are Halloween nerds themselves and I had some hilarious conversations with rather well-respected newspaper people and bloggers about bloody eyeballs and things like that. Special shout-out to the hardcore Halloween fanatics like and AEIOU ... and Sometimes Why for letting me be part of the spooky gang. 

I spent October talking to all of you about Halloween. (Sound like fun? Yes, it was.) When I wasn't discussing things like the history of National Candy Corn Day, I was out in my Brooklyn neighborhood taking pictures of the Halloween decorations.

Genuinely scary skeleton on Clinton Street 
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, is a bit of a Halloween epicenter, drawing trick-or-treaters from all over Brooklyn - and the trick-or-treating starts at 2:30pm! Residents here really know how to show their Halloween spirit, and it was easy finding great decorations to share with readers. 

Some trends in decorations this year:

• giant, fuzzy spiders
• elaborately etched pumpkins
• body parts, often in planters
• using spider webs for blankets and veils
• flat witches that have supposedly crashed into windows

And then, just when we should all have been making candied apples and shopping for the perfect halo, along came a freak snow storm on 10/29/11. They said it was coming but we didn't believe them. This was Dave's reaction:

Luckily, NYC didn't get hit as hard as Westchester county or parts of New Jersey, where one of my friends got 19 inches of snow! In Brooklyn, the snow was all melted by Monday and trick-or-treating commenced directly after school.

Angel, Black Ninja, Red Ninja

And much candy was had by all. And a shocking sugar low was had at around 9pm, despite the pre-trick-or-treating snack. Oh well, it's only once a year.

My kids loved making all the crafts and recipes this year. My daughter is particularly deft at all this and likes to be involved with all aspects of my projects. When I cautioned her to be careful with the glue on one craft she informed me, "I'm always careful." Come on, Mom, get in the game.

Thanks to everybody for the fun & support. See you next year!


To the victor go the spoils.