Airborne & Afraid: Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Flying Tasmiah Rashid April 5, 2019 Air Travel, Travel Tips This blog post was updated on June 16, 2020. Are you someone that trembles in terror at takeoff? Do you lament the idea of landing? Does turbulence make you feel timorous? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Some estimates suggest that there are over 20 million people in the U.S. alone that suffer from some level of flight-fright. But, did you know? Statistically speaking, the safest mode of transportation out there, is…drumroll please…flying. You heard us. Planes are safer than trains, boats, busses, and yes, even cars! But, of course, when it comes to phobias, facts and figures hardly matter to the trepidatious traveler, especially when it comes to air travel. So, whether it’s the thought of flying or the flight itself that sends your heart rate soaring, we’re here to tell you that there are tons of ways for you to conquer those fears and treasure your travels, too! We’ve gathered some useful tips and tricks on how to manage, lessen and even rid yourself of your airborne anxieties. Check it out! Know Before You Go Whether you’re a first-time flier or an avid adventurer, it’s important to both acknowledge and understand your fears, so let’s start at the top: what’s causing those air-journey jitters? Figure Out Your Level of Flight-Fright The fear of flying can mean a lot of different things to different people. While it could be just a few minutes of harmless shakes and shivers for one person, for someone else it could be as severe as aerophobia — the medical term used to describe “an abnormal and persistent fear of flying”. Identify Your Triggers Regardless of the severity of your distress, there are a couple of things happening every time your phobia is triggered. By being able to identify your triggers and what kind of reactions your body will have to them at the outset, you’ll be better equipped to manage and conquer your fears when they surface. The more you know about what triggers your trepidation, the easier it’ll be for you to avoid it! Do Some Due Diligence Just as few people know the aforementioned fun fact that planes are the safest mode of transport, not a lot of people know much about airplanes, their safety records, or flying in general. Fearing the unknown is natural, so why not clear up some of those clouds of confusion? Knowing more about your plane, flight and air travel will help you separate your fears from danger, so you can easily remind yourself that even when your anxiety reaches the same heights as your aircraft, you’re not in danger. By getting to know more about just how truly safe you are on a plane, you might find yourself shedding some of those fears, even before you board your international flights! Anticipate Your Anxiety Anticipation is often the root of anxiety and before you board the plane, what you experience is often just your mind forecasting all the scary things you think might happen on the flight. If you’re someone whose fear is most intense before hopping on your international flights, remember that it might not be an accurate predictor of how you will actually feel on the flight. Instead of anticipating your fears coming true, try to instead anticipate your anxiety so you can better manage it even before you jet set. Related: How to Battle Travel Anxiety Tire Yourself Out Two-hour flight or twenty-hour flight — if you have a fear of flying, the anxiety (and all of its effects) are bound to set in each time you board that plane. When your fears set in, your body encounters a super spike of adrenaline. That’s what’s causing those shakes, shivers, and sweats running through your body. Although adrenaline rushes can be awesome in the right circumstances, in this case, you’re not going to be saving lives by lifting a car to free someone underneath or beating any world records in a marathon, so the best thing for you to do is just get rid of as much of it as you can, before you even board. Here are some ways to do just that: When in Doubt, Jog It Out After you’ve made it past the security clearance, instead of rushing to your gate (assuming you were a good kid and made it to the airport with ample time) take a stroll around the airport to walk off those nerves. If you don’t have enough time to take a longer walk, try pacing by your gate while taking deep breaths or find a quiet corner and practice some breathing exercises or meditation. Find a Mid-flight Method Feeling anxious mid-flight? Since you can’t exactly jog out the jitters while you’re on the aircraft, try and aim for some muscle relaxation instead. Starting down at your toes and moving all the way up to your nose, tighten each muscle throughout your body, take a deep breath and then release a few seconds later. Not only will this relieve some of the adrenaline, but it will also divert your attention away from that measly anxiety. Keep Calm and Game On! This one goes for both in-flight and pre-flight anxiety. If all else fails in the game of draining out your adrenaline, time to turn to games themselves! Yep, you heard us. Playing a visually stimulating game on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop is a great way to use up that extra adrenaline pumping through your veins. So, time to finally beat that Candy Crush score! Turn Your Plane Ride into a Joy Ride If you’re on a plane, there’s no avoiding being cooped up while in the air. But, there are steps you can take to make sure that your plane ride is as comfortable and fear-free as possible. Choose the Right Seat We know, we know. Choosing a seat these days often comes with a fee. But for the sake of your sanity, trust us: dishing out some extra cash to secure the best seat for yourself will be worth it. Fearful fliers should opt for an aisle seat. Aerophobia is often a combination of claustrophobia and the fear of heights, so being in an aisle seat is ideal. Not only will you have the option to get up and jiggle your jitters out as often as you need to without having to cross over other passengers, but you’ll also be far away from the window, which for you means no option to look down at how high up you are. If turbulence triggers your tremors, you may want to opt for that aisle seat in the middle of the plane. Your flight won’t feel as rocky as it does when you’re near the front or back of the aircraft since the seats in the middle are closest to the airplane’s wings and center of gravity. Avoid Caffeine This one’s obvious. Your fears are bound to make you fidgety and anxious as is. Save the caffeinated beverages for the post-international flight, when you’ll need the energy to take on your adventures. On a flight, caffeine will only heighten your anxiety. Travel With a Buddy If you get anxious, having a close friend with you can help calm your nerves and distract you, especially if you’re not used to traveling alone. That being said, if you have to choose which pal to bring, you may want to bring someone who you’re comfortable with, someone who’s encouraging, and can calm you down. You may find you’re more adventurous and less afraid with your buddy by your side. And, who knows? Maybe you’ll even make some new friends together. Befriend the Crew and Your Neighbors You’re all in this together. Meet your crew and your neighbors and don’t hesitate in letting them know of your fears. Chances are you’ll come across another person who might be just as nervous as you are and others might be more understanding of your reactions (not to mention they might be less annoyed if they know why you’re getting up every few minutes and disrupting their beauty sleep). On the flip side, your crew members are flying pros. They’ve probably encountered dozens of fearful fliers and will help ease your woes with advice, reassurance, or even a nice snack to munch on to calm you down. Turn on the Tunes Stock your mobile device with soothing music, podcasts, and movies galore so you can listen to them on your flight (and while you’re at it, maybe even invest in an eye mask). Tune into your music and tune out your surroundings. Close your eyes and focus on something soothing and entertaining — you may find it much easier to relax and get into a peaceful frame of mind. Have any tips to overcome flight-fright of your own? Let us know in the comments below!