Are You a Nervous Flier? These 11 Things Can Calm You Down

What do you, DJ Khaled, and U.S. Air Force General Henry H. Arnold have in common?

A crippling fear of flying.

Aviophobia is an agoraphobia; a fear of not being able to escape or get help. It manifests severely in at least 40% of the 1.8 million Americans affected, despite the one-in-11-million chance of dying in a plane crash. Aviophobia is rooted in many correlated anxieties, for which long-term treatments and lifestyle changes have proven most effective.   

But if you’re flying in the next few days, help yourself overcome that feeling of helplessness on the plane with these 11 pacifying tricks and tools:

1. Create A Comfort Cocoon

This isn’t the time to leave your oversized hoodies and neck pillows behind. And don’t be shy to request a sleep mask, socks, and blanket once you’re settled into your seat. If you’re traveling on a low-cost carrier that doesn’t provide these things, bring your own. When you’re going to be on edge mentally, the last thing you want is to be physically uneasy. So, carry and wear anything that makes you feel comfortable, safe, and secure.   

2. Engage In Mindful Meditation

To make peace with your flying experience, you have to be at peace. Your thoughts can be your best friend or your worst enemy; mold them to work to your advantage through meditation.

Free guided meditation apps like Insight Timer, Smiling Mind, and UCLA Mindful can get you started. Elevate your session with Headspace or Calm if you’re a frequent traveler or avid meditator. To practice mindfulness tech-free, write down or verbally repeat positive affirmations to steer your thoughts away from worst-case scenarios. The more you say it, the more you’ll believe it. 

3. Bank On Breathing Techniques

Inhale … count to three … exhale.

Are you more composed than a minute ago?

You just experienced the body’s “relaxation response” on a primitive level. It’s a stress-reduced state of being conceptualized by Harvard physician Dr. Herbert Benson, where deep breathing combats your automatic fight-or-flight reaction to traumatic situations.

Reaching this state is simple. Breath intentionally from the abdomen while concentrating on a word or phrase. Visualize the gorgeous destination that awaits you. Picture your loved ones ready to welcome you at the airport. Let your worries at 35,000 feet float away.

4. Release Apprehensions Using Aromatherapy

Pleasant smells combined with breathing tactics heighten relaxation (and get rid of the stuffy cabin stink). Fragrances like bergamot, lavender, vetiver, and ylang-ylang can be beneficial for emotional and physical wellbeing, especially when applied topically. Pop travel-sized essential oils, sprays, or rollerball scents in your carryon to access easily throughout the trip.

If you don’t have any of these fragrances, grab your favorite perfume. Sensory associations are powerful; one spray of a favorite fragrance can take you back to your happiest memories.

5. Listen To Tranquil Tunes

Much like smell, music has a huge impact on mentality. Listen to songs that take you to your happy place with an offline playlist on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube Music, or your streaming platform of choice. From transcendent instrumentals to peppy pop, discover how seven musical notes can transform your temperament.

Alternately, podcasts or audiobooks are great to redirect your focus from flying to interesting subjects. Why waste hours worrying, when you can find out how California got its name from “Stuff You Should Know,” or listen to David Attenborough enunciate “A Life on Our Planet?”

6. Watch Your Favorite Flicks

Put your devices to good use to make time fly by. Watching something on the plane is an unspoken rite of passage, and your go-to movies and shows will guarantee it’s fun. Since you already know and love what’s going to happen, anxiety of the unknown from flying is replaced by familiarity and happiness.  

A word of caution – don’t decide to finally watch that thriller that’s been on your watchlist for months now. The suspense and jump scares will leave you worse for wear. Sitcoms, comedies, and lighthearted documentaries are the way to go.  

7. Use An Anxiety Relief Device

An anxiety relief device that fits in your palm can be an excellent travel companion. Get your hands on these portable gadgets to regulate breathing and supplement mindfulness.  

Some well-known devices of this kind are CalmiGo, Calmingstone, and Alpha-Stim. CalmiGo is similar to a nebulizer, while Calmingstone and Alpha-Stim lower tension through phototherapy and electrotherapy. They might be out of your budget, but you don’t have to buy one to try one. Ask around and borrow from a friend or relative who has it before committing to a purchase. 

8. Apps To Tackle Your Fear of Flying

Before boarding, download mobile apps developed by flying experts to specifically deal with aviophobia. No one understands your apprehension better than they do, which is why the app genre “fear of flying” exists.   

Apps like Skyguru, Valk, Turbcast, and Soar will be with you every step of the way through the process of flying, from tracking the flight path, to real-time updates, weather forecasts, and extensive information on flight upkeep. Some even offer immersive entertainment. This spares you from downloading seven different gaming apps to stay occupied.

9. Stay Away from Caffeine and Alcohol

It’s tempting to recline with a glass of wine or cup of coffee to kick off your holiday and ease your travel nerves. But while alcohol and caffeine can be temporary mood boosters, they can also counteract your efforts to soothe jitters. Alcohol could potentially be dangerous if ingested with medication.

Hydrate and pick healthy snacks like nuts and fruits to keep you satiated instead. Caffeine-free teas, hot chocolate, and juices should be aplenty on long-haul flights, as should meal options. When in doubt, check ahead or BYOT (teabags and treats). 

10. Book An Aisle Seat

Fear of flying often stems from claustrophobia, so being crammed into the middle or window seat with no way out can only make matters worse. 

Most airlines offer seat selection options at the time of booking. If not, try catching your spot when online check-in opens, or get to the check-in counter earlier than usual. If you get an accommodating attendant, request an upgrade. A little planning and money can help ease your air travel anxiety. 

11. Ensure a Peaceful Mind with Insurance

With managing bookings, building an itinerary, arranging ground transportation, and packing, there’s enough on your plate when planning a trip. If you’re nervous about flying, it’s just one more unwanted thing to worry about.

One excellent way to reduce your travel anxiety is by purchasing travel insurance. A travel insurance plan can provide a host of benefits and financial protection for common travel situations like baggage loss, flight delays, flight cancellations, and much more. The exact benefits and level of coverage will depend on the plan you choose.

With travel insurance in place, you can have the additional peace of mind of knowing that if something doesn’t go as expected during your trip, at least you have the ability to be financially covered for it. Reducing flying anxiety is all about reducing your overall stress level. Travel insurance is an excellent way to do just that.

Before You Take Off

Understand that not all of the tricks and tips in this article will work to reduce your flying anxiety all the time, so it’s best to take a multi-pronged approach. Have several tools and techniques available to help quell your fears, and eventually you’ll find a combination that’s effective. By learning to manage your aviophobia, you can open up a world of possibilities, and arrive at your destination refreshed and energized.

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