How to Conquer Your Flight Anxiety So You Can Travel the World
Air travel is an integral component of modern transportation; unfortunately, anxiety regarding day-to-day happenings is an equally evident component of modern life.
People fear flying for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you’re claustrophobic, or not a huge fan of heights. Maybe you enjoyed binge-watching Lost on Netflix just a few too many times. It was all fun and games until you boarded a two-hour flight to Chicago and found yourself surveying the business class passengers for possible Jacks and Kates, desperately trying to remember how the fictional castaways started a fire on the beach and built that raft.
So you’re afraid of flying — not the end of the world. Dr. Chloe Carmichael, an expert clinical psychologist in Manhattan deems the recognition of your flight anxiety a step in the right direction. Dr. Chloe advises, “Regard the realization that you have this flight anxiety as a positive. With anxiety, the thing we want to avoid being anxious about getting anxious. So actually, realizing that you have flight anxiety is actually a great gift because it empowers you to go ahead to take some steps to assuage it before you get on the plane.”
Learning to control the fear of flying can be life changing; with the right knowledge, managing this anxiety is simple. Why let fear get in the way of travelling and enjoying some of the most exciting, novel experiences of your life?
Dr. Chloe offers three tips for travelers who aren’t particularly fond of spending time in the sky.
1. Deep Breathing Exercises
Oxygen keeps blood flowing to the brain; the short, shallow breathing that often accompanies feelings of worry can lead to light-headedness. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths from your gut — not your chest. Try holding a hand to your stomach and feeling it expand as you inhale oxygen. “As we all know, there’s that ‘fight or flight’ chain reaction when we get anxious and our breathing gets shallow,” Dr. Chloe says. “Many times clients tell me that they tried deep breathing and it didn’t work. I learned that what they’ve really been doing is more of a gaping breath.”
Series of calming deep breathing exercises can be found on Dr. Chloe’s website Anxiety Tools, and apps like Breathe2Relax, Universal Breathing, Paced Breathing, Relax Stress and Anxiety Relief, Prana Breath, and Breathing Zone. Spotify is home to several deep breathing guides as well — download your favorite pre-flight tunes so you can use them even on airplane mode.
2. Something to Look Forward to on Your Flight
“Another thing to do is to find something pleasurable to look forward to during the flight,” Dr. Chloe advises. “Maybe a really good audiobook that you can listen to, or a collection of tabloid magazines, whatever is your fun, guilty pleasure. Create some kind of special treat for yourself that you can only have on the plane, so that will kind of offset whatever displeasure you feel about flying.”
Some suggestions: Any Agatha Christie mystery will keep a reader fully-immersed from page one until the killer is reprehended. Don’t normally Keep Up? (With the Kardashians…) See what contrived catastrophe is going on with the crew. Catch up on Scott’s antics. (Read: Sofia Richie) Marvel over Kim’s new makeup products. Try to guess who is pregnant now. Live a little. Why not? You’ve got time to kill.
3. Pretend It’s Just a Drill
Hear us out. Dr. Chloe explains: “This might sound kind of silly, but what passengers can actually do is pretend to themselves that what they’re actually doing is a flight simulation experience — as if it’s part of an exercise. This might sound silly, but it’ actually no different than someone who has performance anxiety giving a speech. They often choose one person in the audience and pretend like they’re just speaking to that one person, and it actually really helps them. In a similar sense, if you pretend to yourself that it’s just an exercise — that the plane may feel like it’s doing things but it’s just an exercise. Some people find that helpful.” The focus of this alternative thought process is distracting a passenger from his or her fear while aboard the plane.
With conscious breathing, some good (or so bad it’s good) reading material, and a little imagination, even the most fearful flyer can make air travel manageable — perhaps even pleasurable.
Keep Dr. Chloe’s tips in mind, and don’t let flying woes stunt your wanderlust. You’ve got this. Where to next?
Emily Rosenthal is a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Delaware, and a freelance content writer for Spine Media following a summer internship in Manhattan. She counts snagging a selfie with Joe Biden as one of her greatest accomplishments to date. It’s only up from here.