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You never know when anxiety is going to rear it’s ugly head, and for many people it does so with respect to flying.  Unfortunately this can be a drawback, especially if you love to travel!

The psychology of this fear is somewhat baffling.  We know that statistics are in favour of safe arrival; we know that there are scientific laws of aerodynamics at play; we know adequate security measures are taken by airlines, and we can see the happy, smiling faces of the airline staff brimming over with confidence and lack of fear.  We really shouldn’t be anxious, yet so many of us are.

The key to anxiety is to head it off at the pass, before it gets unmanageable. Here is my personal list of 10 tips to ease flight anxiety.

  1. Choose your seat prior to your flight so you have a familiarity with what your surroundings are going to be prior to boarding.  Many of the larger “airbus”-style aircraft offer seating at the back with only two passengers on each side of the plane.  The aisle is wider in this area too, which detracts from the claustrophobia factor.  Of course, if you can afford business class, this option will be built in.
  2. Download relaxing music or other sounds on your cellphone or tablet, and bring headphones or earbuds to listen to them.  Of course, if you don’t have a set, the airline will be more than happy to sell them to you.  There are many apps that you can choose from that offer relaxing or “spa” music, rain sounds or nature sounds all geared to help you relax.
  3. Bring a blanket and pillow.  Even though we may not consciously realize it, blankets offer us comfort and security, and give us the sensation of being in the womb.  Most of us sleep with blankets or a quilt, and they play a part in making us relaxed and sleepy.
  4. Distract yourself.  Watch a movie or TV show, read a book, play a video game on your cellphone or tablet (as long as it can be played in airplane mode), or do a crossword puzzle.  Try to choose an activity that is relaxing.  This isn’t the time for The Godfather or Snakes on a Plane!
  5. If you bring a book, make sure it is one that you have been reading for a while so that you are engrossed in the plot.  There’s nothing worse than reading a whole bunch of scene description and character building when you are having trouble focusing, and anxiety will certainly tap into your focus energy.
  6. If you are going on vacation, visualize all of the things you are going to do.  You’re getting away to have fun.  Use this to keep yourself in a positive and joyful frame of mind.  Of course, you cannot go on the internet, but bring some travel brochures or information about pre-planned activities that you are looking forward to that you can browse through during the flight.
  7. Make sure you are dressed for your environment.  Layer your clothing so that if you are hot, you can take clothing off and if you are cold you can put it on.  If your body is uncomfortable, it can exacerbate flight anxiety if it begins.
  8. Meditate.  Whether you are a seasoned practitioner or have never tried it before, the art of being mindful and in the moment is very calming.  Spending just 15 minutes per day clearing your mind and letting go of your thoughts can significantly lower stress levels, and there are many apps that can be purchased on your cellphone or tablet to help you learn how to do this.
  9. Wear earplugs.  If the sounds of the aircraft make you uncomfortable, block them out.  There are many sounds which accompany air travel which are perfectly normal, but that we do not understand – unless of course you are a pilot.
  10. Engage your senses.  Bring a snack or a drink that you particularly enjoy, and save it in case anxiety strikes, or bring a small bottle of perfume or cologne that evokes positive memories.  Our sense of smell is a very powerful tool, and very closely linked with our brain.  One small whiff can take our thoughts in a whole different direction.

Here’s a great link from Budget Travel with some more great ideas from experts 10 Foolproof Tricks to Beat Flight Anxiety.   

Above all, try to remember that air travel is the safest mode of transportation in the world today.  Some reports even state that the risk of dying in a plane crash is so slim that it is not even worth calculating.

Travel can be a teacher, a therapist or a storyteller, and we all need a change of scenery and culture in our lives from time to time.  Don’t let anxiety rob you of this opportunity, and of course, if you cannot bring yourself to board a plane at all, there are many programs online and in the community that can help.