5 Ways to Cope With Flight Anxiety


Travel / Thursday, July 5th, 2018

As someone who travels pretty frequently, you would think I’m comfortable with flying. The fact is, I’m pretty terrified of it. My flight anxiety is a very real thing and I’ve struggled for years. But I know that coping with flight anxiety is something that many other travelers deal with, too.

I’m not about to let my love for discovering new places be overshadowed or even slightly hindered by the anxiety I feel about flying. Let’s face it, it’s really the only mode of transportation I can use to get to my destination.

It’s taken many years and lots of trial and error to figure out what works for me. If you suffer from flight anxiety, I hope that these simple coping mechanisms can help you too. Remember that everyone is different and you may need to find what works for you.

5 Ways to Cope with Flight Anxiety

1 – Distractions

I try to distract myself with things that have nothing to do with flying. Reading helps (books on long flights, magazines on shorter ones). We watch Netflix shows downloaded to an iPad sometimes (comedy really helps). I just make sure never to watch anything that involves terrorism or plane crashes. That just increases my anxiety at an exponential level.

2 – Classical music

I’ve listened to classical music my whole life and find it to be very calming. When I was a kid I would fall asleep every night to a classical CD that I would just let play in the background. My association with sleep and classical music may be why I can fall asleep more easily on a plane while listening to it. Sleep is a state I prefer to be in when flying because I’m blissfully unaware of going 600mph at 37,000 feet above the ground in a giant metal tube.

3 – Drinking

Ok, I’m not advocating for getting drunk, on a plane or anywhere else. But for me, having a glass or two of wine can really help calm my nerves and reduce the level of anxiety I’m feeling. On international flights, wine and beer is usually complimentary in coach, too.

4 – Hug it out and breathe

Getting into the fetal position isn’t possible, but wrapping your arms around yourself into a semi-hug is. Go ahead and try it right now. It’s a little comforting, right? I’m usually flying with my husband so he also lets me squeeze his hand/arm/leg (sometimes a little too tightly), but if you’re flying alone then this method is helpful. Take several deep breaths in and out. Breathe in for three counts and out for three counts.

5 – Make lists

I will concentrate on making lists of things in my head. This helps during turbulence. I’ll start naming the colors of the rainbow or listing all the U.S. states in alpha order. I’ve listed the books of the Bible in my head and even started counting by 2s, 3s, 5s etc to see how high I can go. This coping mechanism may seem strange but the point is that it provides me with repetition and a distraction from my current situation. The listing becomes a little rhythmic and almost tantric-like.

There are many ways to cope with flight anxiety, so if you suffer from it like I do, I hope you find some methods that work for you. At the end of the day, flying is very safe and traveling is definitely worth it.

xo – Erin

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