A woman standing in an airport and anxiously looking out the window.

Managing Flight Anxiety: Tips for Calming Yourself Down

Many people are nervous flyers - whether they have a fear of flying or dislike how stressful airports can be. Flight anxiety is not uncommon but shouldn’t hold you back from traveling to new places and experiencing other cultures. In this article, we’re going to discuss what flight anxiety is and provide tips on how nervous flyers can manage their anxiety in the airport and on a plane. 

What is Flight Anxiety?

Flight anxiety or aerophobia is more common than you may think. According to research, it is estimated that up to 40% of people experience this form of anxiety disorder each year. While air travel has been proven as one of the safest methods of transportation, this doesn’t mean that the anxiety you experience when flying is any less justified. 

Yet, what exactly is flight anxiety? This anxiety disorder is characterized by feelings of nervousness or fear when on a plane or in an airport. On the more serious end of the scale, people have such an intense fear of flying that they avoid it at all costs. For others, flight anxiety causes them to feel distressed or experience anxiety attacks when traveling. 

Those who have a fear of flying often find themselves having uncontrollable anxious thoughts about whether the plane will crash or whether there will be technical malfunctions. In the wake of 9/11, many had anxious thoughts over the possibilities of being involved in a terrorist attack. 

Flight anxiety can disrupt everyday life, especially for those that can’t avoid air travel. While many may resort to anti-anxiety medication to deal with flight anxiety, there are other beneficial ways to manage anxiety symptoms and panic attacks while flying. We’ll delve deeper into these management techniques a little later on in this article. 

Flight Anxiety Symptoms: What Are They?

Before you can learn to manage your fear of flying, you need to be able to identify flight anxiety symptoms. While these symptoms can differ in nature and intensity, it is believed that they are quite similar to that of other specific phobias and anxiety disorders. 

Those who are nervous about being on a plane may notice the following flight anxiety symptoms on the day of or in the days leading up to flying: 

  • Disorientation
  • Clouded thinking
  • Increased heart rate
  • Flushed skin
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking sensations
  • Sweating
  • Shaking

These physical symptoms of flight anxiety can be extremely unnerving, especially if you are not aware of what is triggering them. Additionally, some individuals may have a panic attack in conjunction with flight anxiety. 

When Can Flight Anxiety Symptoms Appear? 

It differs for everyone. One person may only notice flight anxiety symptoms once they have sat down on the plane. Yet, for others, it can begin as soon as they arrive at the airport. Understanding anxiety symptoms and knowing what is causing them is the first step to managing anxiety when traveling. 

Methods For Dealing With Anxiety When Traveling

The physical sensations that come with flight anxiety can be enough to make you want to cancel your trip altogether. Yet, that shouldn’t stop you from being in the career that you want or traveling to the countries you’ve always wanted to visit. 

The next time you find yourself wondering how to deal with flight anxiety, try these helpful anxiety management techniques. 

Familiarize Yourself With Plane Noises

Being consumed with thoughts about technical malfunctions when flying and hearing rattling noises during the flight is one of the leading causes of people feeling anxious. These noises can be concerning when you don’t know what’s going on. 

The best way to combat this is to research the typical noises and bumps that you may experience during the flight. For example, you can search for videos on YouTube that show what sounds a plane makes when it engages its landing gear. Or, you can read about the rigorous safety measures that aircraft must meet to be able to fly. 

Sometimes the best way to overcome anxiety is to educate yourself on different aspects of aircraft that you don’t know about. Forgot to research before your flight? Ask a flight attendant for information. They’ll be more than happy to address any concerns you may have. 

Avoid Coffee and Alcohol

Coffee and alcohol are both stimulants that can make your anxiety worse. While you may feel like you need a glass of wine or your favorite coffee order to help you through, you are better to opt for a bottle of water and a light meal before flying. Why is this? 

Both of these beverages can dehydrate you and make it harder for your body to adjust to being airborne. By sticking to water, you can make sure that you’re still hydrated while also not aggravating any anxiety sensations. 

Use Visualization Techniques

Visualization is a powerful technique for reframing your thoughts about those situations that trigger your anxiety. Oftentimes, our thought patterns can make our fears and anxiety worse. By visualizing the flight in the weeks leading up to it when you are feeling calm, you can prepare yourself for the experience. 

Sit down, close your eyes and imagine having a smooth flight. Think about what kind of sounds you might hear as the plane takes off and what you’ll see as you look out the window. Now, imagine yourself sitting in your seat and notice how steady you feel. 

Make sure to breathe deeply when using visualization techniques and take a moment to notice how calm you feel before opening your eyes. 

Find Healthy Distractions

It is normal for our thoughts to become frantic when we feel those first few flight anxiety symptoms kick in. When we are feeling anxious or are managing a panic attack, a great strategy is to distract ourselves through healthy ways. 

This could be through watching an in-flight movie, listening to a podcast, or re-reading your favorite comfort book. Whichever distraction method you choose, make sure that it brings you comfort. Once you feel yourself become engrossed in this distraction, your anxiety symptoms will begin to ease. 

Practice Breathing Techniques 

If none of those strategies are helping, it is best to bring it back to the basics: breathwork. Practicing breathing techniques such as deep breathing is one of the best ways to manage anxiety and panic attacks while traveling. 

As we are focusing on breathing deeply into the stomach, holding our breath, and then slowly releasing we can decrease our breathing and heart rates effectively. Using a tool such as an anxiety necklace is a great option for those with flight anxiety. This comforting tool can be worn around your neck or kept in your carry-on and used whenever you feel panicked. 

As anxiety jewelry is delicate and discreet, you won’t have to worry about this deep breathing tool looking out of place. For many, it can be comforting to know that you have it with you when flying. 

At Moksha, we designed the Beam anxiety necklace to help reduce anxiety and stress during those times when people need it most. Designed with a split path airflow, this tool optimizes deep breathing and will decrease any anxiety-related symptoms you’re experiencing in any situation - even when traveling. For more information on how you can take control of your anxiety, get in touch with us today.
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