How to Survive Pre-Flight Anxiety.

10+ Tricks to Kick your Pre-Flight Anxiety

Arriving at the take-off is a beautiful moment. We’re in an environment that we love and we’re excited to get back in the air. After some social time, preparation and the take-off, we reach the sky and experience a small sense of relief… we’re back to the air!.. but that release is also a result of getting through that anxiety-bound preflight stress.

Let’s just be honest for a moment… we’ve all experienced pre-flight anxiety. It’s a mix of excitement, anticipation and a little bit of fear. For some pilots, it’s felt on the way up to launch and for most it peaks while we are preparing our wings and preforming our take-off. It’s normal, right?

As much as we can enjoy the exciting feelings while sensing the weight of our self-responsibility and anticipation for the flight ahead, we can also feel the weight of performing, especially on a busy start place. Most pilots are not confident in their launch skills and now there is an audience checking it all out. We try to push brush it off, but we feel the pressure from inside, and outside, not to make a mess of our launch.

This adds RISK to your launch.

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When we experience these moments of stage-fright, something happens to our brains. It is the same thing that happens when we are about to give a speech or presentation in public and it is a very real chemical reaction in the body. The pituitary gland, in the brain, secretes the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and we experience the biological response of fight or flight (no pun intended ;). Your safety depends on your performance and essentially being on stage in the process intensifies this experience 10 fold.

Here’s how you can Minimise the Effects of Stage-Fright and your Pre-Flight Anxiety…

There are several ways we can take control of this intense moment of paragliding. There are a few tactics and tools that can really make a difference.

Practice

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No one wants to go on stage when they are not prepared. We all have gone through an education process to be able to fly as independent pilots. However, so many of us stop practicing our take-off once we’ve got that flashy pilot-licence in our hands… even when we start flying at more difficult launch locations and in stronger conditions. The reality is that, without the practice, we lose our ability to control the pre-flight anxiety, and we get behind on our technique. So it might be worth it to get back to the practice part!.. and yes, that means going back to the ground ;), and not just with ground handling. Taking time to study maps, meteo, taking regular SIV trainings and other on-going learning courses are all essential ways to be prepared as pilots.

Use Brain + Body Tricks:
10 Tricks to Kick the Stage-Fright

If you’re keeping up with your practice, you’ve done a big chunk of the work.. but this doesn’t mean that you won’t be affected by pre-flight anxiety. Socialising on the take-off is a beautiful component of paragliding. But when it is time to prepare, bringing the focus back to yourself is essential.

“The antagonist for fear is relaxation. It’s impossible to be relaxed and fearful or be fearful and relaxed at the same time.” ~ Katrin Ganter

Now is the time to concentrate on your actions, not the audience or energy of the people around. This is where our toolbox of techniques comes in and it’s a concept used by many successful pilots and other sports people. Use the tools that work best for you. Build a routine and follow it every time you prepare.

Here are a list of tools that you might add to your pre-flight tool box:

1. Stay Connected to WHY you are Flying

What makes you happy about flying? Are there things you are grateful for in this moment?

Knowing exactly why you want to fly and what is motivating you to get in the air keeps your focus inside of yourself instead of outside at the audience. Remember the joys of flying while preparing your glider.

2. Use Breathing Techniques

This is a well-known tool used by performance artists like athletes and pro-musicians. In a study released by PLOS, it was shown how doing a simple exercise like taking a big deep breath while raising the arms can trigger a relaxation response in the body… yes, it’s really that easy!

3. Find Your Space

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If you find it difficult to bring the energy back to you, make it easier by avoiding the crowds or choose quieter take-off locations. Give yourself space to build a routine in a calm environment. When your routine is strong, take it to a busier location, trusting that you now have the tools to refocus your energy inwards and prepare for your flight, even with a bustling energy around you.

4. Segment Your Preparation

Go step by step with the intention to do just one thing at a time- now I unfold the wing- now I check the lines first A-B- C-D_breaks- now I click into harness, now I position myself in the middle, now I do 5 point check, now I inflate….Confusion and anxiety arise when we are thinking about the tasks of the flight beyond launch, letting thoughts of life come in like relationships or work. Commit to focusing on your step-by-step preparation and don’t let the mind drift into the next step until the last is completed.

5. Create Visual Anchors

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These tricks offer quick reminders that you have the skills you need to launch and fly with confidence and that you’re there because you enjoy it.

This helps to push out the insecurities that can creep in while you are feeling the pressure and excitement of the launch.

6. Focus on Small, Specific Goals

If you are not confident about your take-off skills, keep practicing on the ground and set yourself little goals to work specific parts of your takeoff while on launch. Example: Today I do a really proper visual check while inflating, today I energise the glider by focusing on leaning forward, feeling the pressure of the glider through the carabiners. These little tasks will put your awareness again inside instead of being spread outside.

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7. Use an Extended Pre-Flight Checklist

There’s no sense in wondering if you’re really ready to fly.. try a more complete pre-flight checklist (such as this one developed by our TIP mental trainer, Katrin Ganter).

By visually running through the essential components of being ready-to-fly, we can take out any lingering insecurities and focus on our procedure and the joy of flying.

8. Visualise Your Launch

Like a golfer makes a practice swing, do a practice launch in your head right before you make your committed take-off. Visualise yourself making a controlled, clean take-off. Remember previous good launches that you have made and mentally connect with your ability to make a good start, no matter who’s watching.

9. Be Aware of Your Thoughts

Your unconscious doesn’t understand negation- if you tell yourself “Today I don’t panic during take off“ it will understand “today I panic“ If you think “today I start calmly“ your unconscious understands the goal and will help you to reach it.

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10. Go for it!

When you decide that you want to fly, complete your pre-flight routine, and launch!

Don’t second guess the feeling that it is your time to go fly. Take that gut feeling, confirm that you are well prepared and commit to your inflation.

Celebrate

Taking time to celebrating successful moments in paragliding, puts them deeper into our memory. We can build our bank of good memories and feeling around our flying.

As always, remember that it’s about the fun… and safety is key. It’s not realistic to always avoid the crowds. If you’re excited about these ideas, have some fun and explore this biological component of your passion =).

Erica Dobie
TIP Co-founder / Ground-Handling Expert
With inputs from: Katrin Ganter
TIP Co-founder / TIP Mental Trainer

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