16 Expert-Backed Tips For Fighting Flight Anxiety

There are ways to control and even overcome your flight anxiety. Even if you’re a really nervous flyer, you can learn to get used to flying and eventually relax completely. Let’s take a look at a few fear of flying tips that can really help you conquer (or, at the very least, ease off) your plane anxiety.

Some research suggests that an estimated 40 percent of people experience some level of anxiety when they fly, The New York Times reported. For those with a severe phobia of plane travel, the issue can result in panic attacks or make individuals physically sick. It’s also coupled with crippling thoughts.

“Anxiety when flying can be dissociating,” Nathan Feiles, a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in fear of flying,. “There is this sense of losing control. People can feel at their most vulnerable when they’re in an airplane.”

While clinical phobias like a fear of traveling require effective treatment and care through a mental health professional, Feiles says there are ways to manage or ease your worries when you’re in the air or on the move. Below are a few expert-backed tips on how to abate your anxiety:

Prepare yourself and know the facts

As they say, knowledge is power. It may help your anxiety by studying up on flying, airplanes and flight patterns. This will also help contribute to the normalization of air travel, Feiles said.

“People perceive threats due to an active imagination,” he explained. “But for example, learning about modern airplanes and how they’re built and that, say, the wing won’t break off, may help ease those fears over a period of time. If people have imaginative fears, it helps to have actual knowledge.”

Getting to know the facts and statistics always helps me through anxiety. Numbers are tangible. You can rely on them. And when it comes it safety in the air, odds are in our favor:

Numbers are on your side – Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data shows that there’s a 1 in 11 million chance of you being involved in an airplane accident. And even if you’re in an accident, 96 percent of passengers survive. That’s a fact. The important thing to know is that the numbers are always on your side. Knowing the facts can really help reduce your flying anxiety.

Facts like these:

  • No plane has ever been taken down by turbulence
  • A plane can handle 100x more turbulence than the highest amount of turbulence ever recorded
  • Planes almost always falter during the first two minutes or final 30 seconds of a flight

Airplanes undergo extensive safety testing – Another thing to remember is that a plane will not take off if it’s unfit to fly. This just doesn’t happen. Every plane is checked and tested before each flight to ensure that nothing will go wrong. And before you start wondering, well, what about turbulence or storms that can’t always be foreseen?

No plane has ever been taken down by turbulence or a storm. I know I’ve already said this but it bears repeating. The plane you fly on has been tested, deemed fit to fly, and can handle anything mother nature throws at it!

Familiarize yourself with the plane and the noises – Knowing where the exit is and which seat you’ll be in can help calm your nerves. It’s also a good idea to know the different airplane noises. For instance: When you’re about to take off , you’ll hear a light pound from under the plane followed by a drill noise like the plane is about being repaired – is it time to panic? No, the staff is just closing the cargo hold door. If you know these sounds beforehand, you’ll be much more relaxed when you’re on the plane.

Get seats closer to the front – If you book a seat towards the front of the plane, you’ll experience less turbulence. Once again, turbulence cannot damage a plane, but it can still trigger your flying anxiety, so it’s best to avoid it if possible. And booking a seat at the front is a great way to do that.

Avoid disaster movies

This one’s a no-brainer. Watching disaster movies or reading up on plane crashes is going to have a serious impact on your plane anxiety if you’re a nervous flyer. There’s no reason to make your flying anxiety worse, is there? So, avoid any movies and pictures that might scare you.

Think positive

You’d be amazed what you can convince yourself of. A lot of our anxieties simply come from overthinking, or repeated nervous experiences. And before you know it, you’ve convinced yourself to be afraid or anxious. You can train yourself to switch this around by thinking positive. Just remember the facts and take your mind off the plane by thinking about your holiday plans. Are you going swimming? Are you getting a massage the minute you step off the plane? Focus on that, if you can.

Another idea is to read a book or watch a movie. You can distract yourself from your fear of flying with a few repeat happy thoughts. It really does work.

Flying

Visualize

Picturing yourself in a safe, comfortable place can be a powerful antidote to anxiety. Just like I said before: happy thoughts. Picture your plane taking off and landing safely. This is a great way to convince yourself to stay positive. Imagine yourself having a great flight, enjoying some wine and snacks, watching a movie and reading your favourite book.

Try to focus on this image when you board the plane. Picture a smooth take off, then experience it. Picture a safe landing, look forward to it, then enjoy it when it happens.

Listen to calming music Or meditate Or Pray

When I say calming music, I really mean whatever music calms you down – which, of course, is different for everyone. Have some of your favourite relaxing or feel-good music saved and loaded ready to go before you board. Then, once you’re on, put your headphones on and zone out the world. That’s the key fear of flying help here: zoning out the world; going to your happy place.

If music doesn’t do that for you, then try meditating instead. If you can calm yourself and go to a safe space through meditation, there’s no better place to do so than on a plane. If you know a few weeks ahead of time that you’ll be flying soon, get some practice in for a while and then try your meditation out when you’re on the plane.

Remind yourself who’s the boss!

This might sound silly, but it’s like that old trick: smile for 30 seconds, even if you don’t feel happy, and you’ll convince yourself that you are. Self-confidence works the same way if you have flying anxiety: remind yourself that you’re tough. That you’re strong. That flying is something everyone does all the time, and that you’re as strong and as confident as anyone else! You can do this. Of course you can.

Breathe

There are specific breathing exercises that can get you out of your anxious head, calm your heart rate, soothe your muscles, and even help you forget where you are. A great mindfulness breathing exercise goes like this:

  • Find a comfortable sitting position
  • Close your eyes
  • Take a few long breaths, in through your nose and out through the mouth
  • Focus your attention on the breath: notice how it’s cool going in and warm going out
  • Concentrate all your focus on the act of breathing. Nothing else exists; just the breath
  • Continue this for a while and the breath will become automatic, but keep your focus on it
  • You’ll find yourself slipping into a calm and meditative state

Avoid coffee

It might be tempting, especially on a long-haul flight, but don’t do it. Coffee will irritate your anxiety, speed up your heart rate, put too much tension into your muscles. Instead, allow yourself to feel drowsy and relaxed. Eat some snacks and stay super hydrated with just water.

One of the very best fear of flying tips is to remember that your mind and body need to be taken care of. So, take care of them. try to avoid coffee.

Bring a care package

I always bring a little care package when I fly. One that includes: noise cancelling headphones, snacks, iPad, moisturiser, a great book and a neck pillow. This is everything you need to feel completely happy and comfortable. A flight is a great chance to dig into your favourite book or enjoy your favourite album undisturbed.

Be proud of yourself (you did it!)

This is the very first thing you should do after the flight: give yourself a high-five! You did it! And it was good, wasn’t it? You can do it again, can’t you? You did it because you’re the boss! And you can fly without issue! It’s no big deal; it’s just flying; and you did it!

More fear of flying help

Talk to a professional

If your fear of flying feels like more than you can handle, then I would definitely recommend talking to a professional. That’s what they’re here for, after all. And when it comes to flying anxiety, a professional can really help you conquer your fears and allow you to have a normal flying experience. You don’t need to let your flight anxiety control you.

Sedate yourself

O.K, so you’ve tried any other option. Now, it’s time to bring out the big guns.

A pre-trip glass of wine or a Melatonin is best for this. Giving yourself extra melatonin can really help you relax. Melatonin is a hormone we all produce to help regulate our body clock. A little extra can help you unwind on a flight and feel very zen. It works far more effectively and is much safer than sleeping pills.

Flying

However, if you’re a frequent flier, I wouldn’t recommend relying on pills or alcohol to get through the experience, you’re just reinforcing bad behavior. Instead, talk to a professional about your fear of flying, so you can find a solution that works long-term.

Your brain prompts anxiety by responding to perceived “threats,” Feiles explained. That may include activities you don’t do on a regular basis.

Think of it this way: Many of your daily behaviors hardly produce a panicked response because you engage in them frequently. The key is to normalize travel just as you would your regular activities.

“It’s all about getting your brain to understand that flying is normal and routine,” Feiles said. “There are things you do every day that contain risk — even showering — but you still do it because it’s a habit and there’s a very minimal risk. The same goes for this.”

To normalize air travel, Feiles recommends exposing it to yourself as much as possible and in small ways. Track a flight for a few days or a few weeks. You’ll soon notice that it comes and goes with success each time.

Focus on your breathing.

Don’t underestimate the power of the inhale. If you’re feeling fearful in the air, Feiles suggests trying some meditation or breathing exercises to calm your panic.

“The best thing for someone to do when they’re feeling panic in the air is to get themselves into a more relaxed place physiologically,” Feiles said. “Extend your breath by inhaling and exhaling longer than normal or think of pleasant images.”

Acknowledge your panic.

One of the worst things you can do is avoid your fear. The sooner you accept that your panic is occurring, the sooner you can combat it.

“Trying to run from your emotions only makes it worse,” Feiles said. “Acknowledge on a real level what you’re feeling and note that it’s not easy but you will get through it. That can help dissolve some of the pressure.”

Turn it into a “game.”

Take stock of the realities around you when you start to feeling nervous, Feiles said. Focus on the flight attendants, the seat in front of you, your feet on the floor — anything that will help ground you in the present moment.

“If turbulence is what’s causing your fear, tell its story,” Feiles suggested. “Instead of going to bad place, tell yourself what’s happening. If you feel plane bumping up, then acknowledge that you just ascended. Thinking with the plane and detailing what’s actually going on helps instead of letting your mind wander away.”

Ultimately, Feiles wants individuals to know that anxiety when traveling is something that one can manage and overcome. Treatment or coping techniques can help you fully live your life (which hopefully includes vacationing somewhere on a warm, sunny beach).

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