How to Deal with Anxiety While Flying

Don’t let it stop you from working through your travel bucket list.

How to Deal with Anxiety While Flying
While jumping on a plane and flying across the country (or across oceans) is an easy and exciting feat to some, for others it’s something they dread. Something they have to mentally prepare for. Not only because they have a full-fledged phobia of flying (although that plays a part sometimes too), but because they get incredibly anxious while in the air—to a point where they don’t know how to handle it. Anxiety is a very real issue and something that, unfortunately, many people experience on a regular basis. We turned to Dr. Samantha Boardman, psychiatrist and founder of Positive Prescription, for her tips and advice on how to deal with anxiety while in flight.


Face the Fear Head-On

“According to a 2016 study, 13.8 percent of travelers are anxious about flying. Anxiety tends to spike at takeoff and landing (I am distinguishing anxiety about flying from outright fear of flying). Providing anxious flyers with statistics isn’t particularly helpful—telling someone they are more likely to die in a bicycle accident than in a plane crash does little to calm their worries. As we all know, rational arguments and logic don’t hold a candle when fear is involved. The best way to conquer this anxiety is not to hide from it, but to face it head-on.”

Knowledge Will Give You Power

“The more you understand about flying, the less anxious you will be. Speak to a pilot. Learn about the mechanics of flight. If anxiety about flying is holding you back, consider taking a SOAR class, developed by a pilot and licensed therapist to give you the tools you need to overcome your fears. Another option is virtual technology—a virtual-reality helmet and a vibrating seat provide the experience and feel of flying.”

Meditation & Positivity Will Go a Long Way

“Learn a relaxation technique. Meditation or a breathing exercise can get you through unnerving turbulence. Of course, it is essential to learn it beforehand and practice it on the ground. If you are on a flight and find yourself spiraling into anxiety, flip the switch. Recall a moment when you were at your best—a moment you felt strong or a deep sense of belonging. This will help counteract the fear response.”

Distraction Is Key

“Watch a movie, read a magazine, listen to a podcast, bring an un-put-downable book, play Sudoku. The more absorbed you are in something, the less your mind will have a chance to wander and worry.”

Don’t Be Embarrassed About It

“Talk to the flight attendants. If you are worried about a certain sound or smell, ask them about it. Or fly with a friend. Let them know about your anxiety, and explain how you plan to manage it. Suggest ways they might be able to help—holding your hand, counting in a breathing exercise, or even making you laugh.”

Stay Hydrated (Wine Not Included)

“Drink water. Sorry, anxious flyers, imbibing on a flight is not a good idea—it can lead to rebound anxiety and make you feel worse. Speak to your doctor before popping a friend’s Klonopin or sleeping medication—you don’t want to wake up handcuffed to your seat.”

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