7 Tips for Overcoming Flying Anxiety

Purestock / thinkstock.com

Purestock / thinkstock.com

You’ve heard it a million times: flying is safer than driving—it’s the safest mode of transportation.

But still, the sounds of the airplane taking off or the unsettling feeling of turbulence are enough to make you feel painfully panicked. You love the idea of traveling, but the thought of the plane ride has your stomach doing backflips.

You’ll probably never feel as safe while flying as you do sleeping in your bed. But that doesn’t mean that you need to succumb to crippling anxiety. There are measures to take that will help you overcome your fear of flying. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t Make it Worse
Put down that cup of coffee—and that glass of wine, too. Avoid indulging in extras that might make you feel even more jittery or that can dehydrate your body, making you feel worse than normal. Instead, nourish yourself with healthy snacks and keep drinking lots of water to keep your body feeling tip-top.

Distract Yourself
Treat yourself with a stack of fresh magazines, a good book, or a TV series to binge watch on your flight. If you can really get into a form of entertainment, the background details—noise, bumps, and so forth—will start to fade.

Understand Turbulence
The more you know about turbulence, the easier it becomes to deal with. Turbulence is caused by weather patterns—think of it like riding over a bump on your car. Yes, it’s scary to shake in the middle of the sky, but it’s also perfectly normal.

Although you might feel like you’re dropping thousands of feet, most turbulence only causes the plane to shift a few feet. Here’s something to keep in mind: turbulence is a comfort issue, not a safety issue. It’s an annoyance, but not a danger—the biggest risk is that you’ll get tossed around because you aren’t strapped in (and even that is rare), so just keep your belt on when you’re seated.

Set Expectations
Planes make weird sounds, and it’s easy to convince yourself that these sounds mean that something terrible is happening. Before your flight, remind yourself that you will hear some unsettling sounds, but that these sounds are perfectly normal. When you hear a sound in the air, it might startle you—but just remember that you anticipated these sounds, and that their presence means that everything is okay.

Breathe
Borrow a few meditation techniques to ease your body and your mind. Breath in long, slow breaths, and match the length with your exhale. Slow breathing can help create a calming effect over your entire body.

Relax
Easier said than done, we know, use your body to trick your mind into relaxing. That means peeling your hands away from the armrest and unclenching your muscles. If this is hard to do, start by tensing your entire body—feet, face, everything—and then breathe out, letting all of your muscles relax. Visualize every part of your body as it un-tenses.

Practice Makes Perfect
Seek comfort in knowing that the more you fly, the easier it will get. If you’re anxious on a flight, remind yourself that it will get easier over time. Think of it like taking up running—the first few runs are tough, but if you just hang in there, it’ll get better.

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