For most travelers, the only thing scary about going to the airport is the long security lines, and expensive fees for excess baggage. However, millions of adults experience more serious symptoms that can interfere with holiday plans and business trips.
In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 25% of Americans are nervous about flying, and about 7% meet the diagnostic criteria for aviophobia. If you’re one of them, try these strategies that can help calm your nerves.
Practicing Self-help for Fear of Flying:
- Breathe deep. Breathing from your diaphragm lowers stress and tells your brain that it’s okay to relax. Inhale through your nose, drawing air up from your lower abdomen to your chest and throat. Exhale through your nose, releasing air in the opposite direction.
- Meditation encourages positive thinking as well as slow breathing. Focus on a pleasant mental image or repeat a soothing mantra.
- Look out the window. Fixing your gaze on the horizon can steady your nerves. You’ll see how level the plane is, even during turbulence.
- Close your eyes. On the other hand, you might prefer to close your eyes. The lack of visual input fights nausea, and the darkness may help you sleep.
- Change your seat. Upgrade to first class if your budget permits. You’ll be able to board and depart the plane faster. If money is tight, pick a seat as close to the center of the plane as possible for a smoother ride. The rear seats tend to be bumpiest.
- Learn the facts. Research safety statistics about air travel compared to driving or other forms of transportation. It may put your mind to rest.
- Avoid alcohol. Resist the temptation to drink whisky to boost your courage. Becoming dehydrated will just add to your discomfort.
- Eat light. Be gentle with your queasy stomach. Consume small portions and pass on anything greasy and spicy.
- Wear your seat belt. Follow the pilot’s instructions to keep your seat belt fastened whenever you’re sitting down. While injuries from turbulence are rare, it’s a sensible precaution.
- Use distractions. Listen to music, solve word puzzles, or read a sensational thriller. Do anything that takes your mind off the altitude.
Seeking Outside Help for Fear of Flying:
- Tell the flight crew. If you’re very anxious about flying, you may want to mention it to a flight attendant. Acknowledging your fears can sometimes make them less intense.
- Ask your doctor. Your physician can advise you about over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs for motion sickness and anxiety. Some travelers also use natural remedies like ginger.
- Download an app. There are many free or inexpensive apps designed to alleviate fear of flying. Browse online for a product that deals with your triggers, whether you dislike cramped spaces or worry about safety issues.
- Take a course. A number of airlines offer courses to help their passengers learn to fly more comfortably, and they’re usually staffed by real pilots and flight attendants. Plus, the curriculum usually includes a test flight so you can practice what you learned.
- See a therapist. If fear of flying is interfering with your life, you might benefit from talking with a therapist who specializes in anxiety issues and phobias. Many patients have found relief through treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Self-help techniques and professional assistance can help you minimize any anxiety or nausea you experience during air travel. As your fear of flying decreases, you’ll be able to enjoy your travels more and arrive at your final destination feeling cool and collected.