A fear of flying should never stop you from travelling to new places and experiences other parts of that world, so it is important to find ways to manage inflight stress.
We all know that flying is the safest way to travel, so why is it so stressful?
Loud noises, bumps and shakes and unfamiliar sensations coupled with the heights and fear of an emergency or accident make flying unsettling for many travellers – even seasoned passengers.
Here are a few ways to better manage anxiety on flights.
1. Be kind to yourself
Make sure you get enough sleep and eat well before your flight. If you’re tired, you’re going to be less capable of managing your stress levels. Also, if you fill up on candy or fast food before takeoff, you are more likely to feel antsy or unwell.
2. Have a few types of distractions ready to go
One movie or book may not do the trick if your nerves are on edge, so give yourself a few options. When I’m anxious, I may have to try a few different activities to distract myself. Scrolling through a few movie, music or book choices helps refocus your energy.
3. Try to focus on your space
Do your best to focus on your immediate space and try to block out anything else that’s happening around you. I avoid looking around the plane or out the windows so that I can concentrate on what I’m doing and try to forget where I am.
4. Listen to stand up comedy
Laughter is the best remedy so line up something you know will make you laugh. You make not be allowed to use your laptop if its turbulent, so it’s best to download something you can listen to on your phone.
5. Start chatting
Talking to a neighbor is another good way to get your mind on something else and help the time go by more quickly. If you’re flying solo, simply ask someone near you if they don’t mind having a quick chat while you calm down. Just try to keep it short so they don’t feel stuck talking to you the entire flight! You can mention that you’re bit uneasy but ask them questions about themselves and try to find other topics to discuss besides your nerves.
6. Try something active
It can be difficult to focus on a movie or book when your anxious – sometimes I ‘read’ the same page over and over, not even registering the words. Try journaling, writing your postcards, touching up your makeup or anything that keeps your hands moving. Where do you think I wrote this post?
7. Keep yourself ‘grounded’
When we’re anxious, our minds start to run wild with irrational thoughts. Help yourself get back on track by finding five things that you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can taste and one thing you can smell. This is a tactic to help you regain control over your environment.
8. Keep your music light and relaxed
Choose music you know will help calm you down – whatever genre that may be! I usually listen to softer, acoustic songs or classical music when I get nervous to help put me in the right state of mind.
9. Take cues from the flight attendants and seasoned travellers
Flight attendants have seen it all so watching them will tell you whether it’s really necessary to be stressed. If they’re still passing out drinks and snacks, you probably don’t need to worry too much!
10. Organise your bag
Anxiety, for me, is about control. I hate feeling like there’s nothing I can do in the event of an emergency. So try focusing on small tasks that you CAN control, such as organising your bag or seat pocket, completing a puzzle, collecting pieces of rubbish around your seat or cleaning your laptop screen.
11. Have a mantra
Create a short phrase to repeat to yourself when your feeling scared, such as “This too will pass”, or “I can do this”. Take deep breaths and recite the phrase quietly to yourself or in your head on each exhale.
12. Get a good luck charm
I always travel with my favourite charm bracelet as a bit of good luck. On it, I have a small airplane charm to help remind me that the real ones aren’t scarier than my little one.
13. Bring your own snack and water
If things get bumpy, flight attendants may not offer refreshments, so have a small snack and your own water bottle on hand. Eating not only serves as a distraction, but also ensures you’re not anxious AND ‘hangry’.
14. Focus on the positives
Try thinking about all of the fun things you’re going to do when you arrive at your destination (making a short list is even better, even if you’re already planned it out). Remembering the great reasons you’re on the plane might ease your stress.
15. Know how safe you are
It can be hard to remember when you’re right in the middle of a turbulent flight, but flying is extremely safe. In fact, commercial aviation is the most scrutinised, investigated and monitored form of transportation. It may not be worth much when you’re already feeling anxious, but statistics show you are more likely to die from a bee sting than on a commercial flight.
A word on anxiety medication
I do not take medication to manage flight anxiety but I know people who do. It’s part of a normal routine for some and only a flight day tactic for others. One friend takes such a small dose that it’s basically a placebo effect. While it’s not for everyone, medication can help you feel more empowered about controlling your stress.
Remember, I’m not a medical professional, so please consult your doctor regarding the use of any medication.
Do you get nervous on flights? What are some of the ways you cope with stress or turbulence?
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