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With a lot of friends with a massive fear of flying, I have collected a bunch of different tips on how you can reduce your anxiety during the flight. Of course, it really depends on your personality and the level of your fear which method works best for you, but I hope that everyone can find something useful in my list. Because we don't want fear to keep us from traveling!
1. Avoid stressful situations at the airport
- Come prepared. Bring a folder with all of the documents you need, and maybe even have your boarding pass already sent to your phone beforehand, so you don't need to spend nerves on finding everything and worrying whether you have everything you need.
- Do not stress out about security. First of all, remind yourself how this is a weird situation for everyone in line, not only for you. Try to wear accessories and clothing items you can comfortably remove and put back on. For example, try to avoid sneakers with laces, and if you do wear them with laces, lace them in a loose way before you get to the airport.
- Once you have checked in and passed security, find a calm spot like a lounge or just a quiet corner in the waiting area where you can have a moment to yourself to calm down and prepare for the actual flight. Bring your favorite snacks for your waiting time so you look forward to this time.
- Make sure to have a place on the plane reserved, whether you prefer sitting at the window or as far away from the view as possible. This way, you don't have to worry about where you will be seated in the plane.
Talk to a flight attendant about your worries!
Trust me, these flight attendants hear from people with fear of flights or other fears and problems several times every day. Every person has their own troubles, so don't worry about being judged. A friend of mine told a flight attendant on her last flight about her phobia when she got on the plane, and the flight attendant took her to the cockpit and introduced her to the pilot and the co-pilot so she could talk to them about how safely the engine works and see how trustworthy they were. When the flight took off, the flight attendant stayed with her until we were flying calmly, and during the flight, she warned her about upcoming turbulences and informed her about how long they would last and their causes. I really recommend talking to a flight attendant, because they can help you see the process in a more rational way and therefore keep your brain from overthinking every movement the plane makes.
Distraction is key!!!
... but distraction doesn't equal distraction. You should prepare a lot of different ways to distract all of your senses so your brain is kept busy.
- Switch your method of distraction every 10 minutes. This way, your brain does not get used to it and does not get the chance to overthink the situation it is in.
- Make sure to start distracting yourself as soon as you arrive at your seat in the plane, not just before it takes off.
- If you want to, you can combine different methods of distraction so you distract two or more senses at a time. For example, you can listen to light music while reading a book or flicking through a magazine.
- Relaxation apps with guided meditations or breathing exercises can be extremely helpful to calm your busy mind.
- Download a new game which you are looking forward to play.
- Buy a new, exciting book which you have been wanting to read for a long time, but did not find the time for at home.
- Download a new audiobook, or one which you have already listened to and you know you will enjoy.
- Make a playlist full of songs which remind you of happy memories you made. If you can, bring over-ear headphones to block out all the surrounding noise of the engine.
- Watch a movie! Opt for either a really exciting one which keeps your thoughts occupied, or for one which you have already watched in a happy situation. Your brain will remember you felt happy and calm the last time you watched it and will induce a similar feeling.
Bring all of your comfort stuff. Wear your favorite sweatpants, or your favorite dress, if you like, and bring items that will help to make you feel as comfortable as possible during the flight.
- Layer! It gets cold in airplanes. Bring a bunch of comfortable layers, such as a hoodie and comfy socks, so you are flexible and can adapt to the temperature just as you like it.
- Bring a small pillow or a stuffed animal to cuddle and hold onto.
- Don't forget pills against travel sickness. If you are not a fan of swallowing pills, there also exist bracelets which cool down a trigger point on your wrist to reduce sickness. Also, chew gum, especially during the take off and the landing, to fight the pressure in your ears.
- Hydrate!! Treat yourself to your favorite soft drink, but also always keep a bottle of water by your side (you can buy it at the airport or onboard).
- Take off your shoes to feel more like you would sit on a chair in a living room than on a seat in a bus.
- Bring a sleep mask to block out unpleasant views or to try to take a nap.
If you travel with friends, inform them how they can help you.
Some people like to talk about their fear, some want their friends or family members to distract them and behave as normal as possible. Let your travel partners know how you want them to treat you before the flight so you won't be stressed out by their behavior. You can also hold hands anytime you feel especially frighted, as human body contact always calms your body down in a natural way (of course, you can also cuddle, if that is what you prefer).
Remember the big picture.
Think ahead of the flight. Whether you fly for business or for a fun trip, you do this for you, as you think your trip will offer you new opportunities and experiences. Bring a notebook or a journal to write down any ideas and inspirations you will get.
- Make a list what you want to do the next day. Describe it as detailed as possible. What and where will you eat? What will you be wearing? Where are you going and how will you get there?
- Collect pictures of places and attractions you are looking forward to visiting.
- What are you hoping to learn from this trip?
- Write a letter to your best friend (you don't necessarily need to send it afterwards) about where you are going and why you are looking forward to visiting this new place.
I hope some of these tips can help any of you to feel a bit less frightened by the idea of flying. Always keep in mind that we are all human and your fear is nothing to be ashamed of. Also, keep in mind that although it can get really scary to have a phobia or fear like this, it is an irrational fear and the danger only exists in your mind. Therefore, your main focus should be to keep your mind busy and distracted at any time of the flight.
And last, but not least, be proud of yourself. Not a lot of people have the courage to face their fear like you do. Treat yourself for your bravery and strength!