Whether you are the type of traveler that boards flights without thinking twice, or the type that fears for their life when the flight attendant makes an announcement, these tips can help anyone stay level-headed on their next plane ride.
1. Stay informed
Knowing the actual statistics behind a plane crash can be helpful to minimize irrational thoughts. A 2018 Newsweek article claimed that “under the best conditions, chances of dying from a plane crash are 1 in 20 million.”
To someone with severe flight anxiety, that chance may not be worth taking. Understanding the basic mechanisms of a plane and its emergency plans may be helpful when sudden turbulence hits and the seatbelt sign illuminates. For example, the app SOAR is designed to inform those with aviophobia and help calm fears on-board.
2. Try to focus on different things
Focusing on your breathing will decrease your heart rate and put your body a bit more at ease. A simple breathing exercise is inhaling for six seconds, holding for four, and exhaling for six. The more attention that you pay to your breathwork will minimize your attention to anxiety. In a 2016 Conde Nast Traveler article, Jonathan Bricker, Ph.D., an affiliate associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington, recommended “focusing on the higher purpose of your trip” as it “puts the fear into perspective.”
Look at an image of your destination or think of a particular reason for your travels, like loved ones, friends, or a new culture. This might shrink your thoughts about the flight and shift them to a bigger picture.
3. Take care of your body
Caffeinated beverages and alcohol raise your heart rate and combined with anxiety, your body may start to suffer more than it has to. It is safer to avoid those beverages and try to keep your body as neutral as it can be.
Additionally, working out before traveling will tire your muscles and can treat flight- induced insomnia. Exercise can decrease stress and nervousness, so do a quick jog or lift weights before you leave for the airport.
4. Distract yourself
If all else fails, turn on a movie or a good playlist and try to take your mind to a different place. Don’t watch a horror film and pile on that anxiety; instead, opt for a comedy or drama that could take your mind off your current circumstances. For the next few hours, fall into a new world with Beyoncé singing in your ears or Spiderman swinging from your screen.
Flying can be difficult and can scare away potential world travelers, so prepare yourself and understand what your body needs in times of panic – even if you just have to fake it till you make it.