- I have travel anxiety. My fear of situations outside of my control causes me to feel stressed and anxious, and little makes me feel less in control than travelling, especially air travel. But I’m not alone – about 25% of the US population experiences anxiety related to flying.
- Despite my anxiety about flying, I’ve survived more than 100 flights in my life, 14 of which were long-haul flights. I’ve learned that, even though flights make me anxious, travelling also brings me happiness and growth.
- To ease my anxiety on flights, I’ve tried several tips for anxious flyers backed by experts in my years of travel.
- Here are the eight strategies for surviving long flights with anxiety that have helped me the most.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
1. Arrive at the airport early.
When I’m anxious about a flight, I give myself extra time to check-in, get through security, and get to my gate.
According to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT), planning ahead is crucial to avoiding and reducing travel anxiety.
Since I get anxious about missing my flights, I usually plan ahead by giving myself a 30-minute cushion.
2. Pack your carry-on with security measures in mind.
Another thing that makes me anxious is going through TSA. Going through security always makes me feel like I’m hiding something – even though I’m not.
So I plan ahead by packing all my liquids and electronics into easily accessible parts of my carry-on. This makes the process go by as quickly and stress-free as possible.
Even if it’s not the most effective way to pack the bag, I just fix it after getting through security as a sense of relief rushes over me.
3. Drink water — only water.
Aeroplane cabins also have dry air, so make sure you stay hydrated and avoid drinks with caffeine and alcohol in them.
4. Plan ways to distract yourself during the flight.
When I’m going to be in the air for hours, I plan out my schedule for the whole flight, keeping in mind what will make it go by faster. Even if it’s just watching 10 episodes of a new TV show and then napping – having an idea of how I’ll spend the trip is helpful.
According to Todd Farchione, Ph.D., of Boston University’s Centre for Anxiety & Related Disorders, distractions help alleviate anxiety, and people associate tv with home and safety.
So letting your favourite TV show consume you for your entire flight may be the best way to spend it.
5. Pay attention to the safety presentation — even if you’ve flown before.
As a kid, my family made fun of me for how avidly I paid attention to and followed along with the flight safety demonstration every single time we flew – but I stand by it.
At 23, I’ve flown more than 100 times in my life, and I still always follow along with the safety pamphlet in the seat pocket in front of me. It helps me manage anxiety to remind myself that there’s an emergency plan and I am in on it.
Healthline backs this, stating that preparing for the “what ifs” can help relieve travel anxiety.
6. Try meditating in your seat with apps like Breathe.
There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have even been able to picture myself meditating, and thank goodness that’s no longer the case.
According to research out of Carnegie Mellon University, meditation reduces levels of a substance in the blood that’s linked to stress.
The thing that makes me most anxious about flying is feeling like I’m stuck in this space, but an app called “Stop, Breathe & Think” helps me get out of the space for a few minutes with guided meditations.
7. Think about where you’re going and what you’re going to do there.
Maybe you’re embarking on an adventurous trip, maybe you’re headed somewhere relaxing, or maybe you’re just travelling for work or heading home.
Either way, according to Travis McNulty, a licensed mental health counselor, visualising yourself at your destination can help combat stress.
8. Download music that relaxes you. Lots of it.
According to the American Psychological Association, music relaxes people. So when all else fails to relieve your flight anxiety, this is a solid back-up plan.
When I have a seven-hour flight ahead of me, I download at least seven hours of music that relaxes me, just in case.