I wouldn’t say that I’ve got this completely managed. There are still airborne moments that make me uneasy but overall I’ve come a long way with my late onset flight anxiety. As a kid and teen I was a pro! Not a care in the air.
But with age, came discomfort and dread with even just the thought of booking a vacation I had to fly to. Can you imagine?! As someone who loves to travel as much as I do this was a terrible, debilitating dilemma. I think it stemmed from flying to my cruise ship contracts. When you constantly equate flying with a job you don’t enjoy, one that stresses you out both mentally and physically, the entire practice of air travel, no matter the purpose, becomes polluted.
Somehow things began to turn around for me in the last year or so. I have started to see planes as sanctuaries where I can relax and unplug from social media, catch up on movies, and stuff my face with delicious (ahem…cough…) airplane food rather than giant flying tubes of terror, unreliably catapulting me to the next place.
I truly hope that you do not struggle with flight anxiety as I have for many years. If you do, please have a look below at 5 things that I think are helping me overcome mine.
- Xanax has been a godsend. I religiously shy away from drugs on a day to day basis but when the anxiety got as bad as it did I felt no shame or guilt calling in a heavy hitter. I don’t use it for every flight – mainly ones when I know I need to sleep. But there’s comfort in just having it with me. The anxiety is reduced knowing that I have an anxiety reducer an arm’s reach away. Speak to your doctor for a prescription.
- I’m a fairly sensory aware person on a day to day basis, getting easily overwhelmed when my senses are overloaded. At 35,000 feet, my hyper-awareness kicks into overdrive. Using noise-cancelling headphones is a game changer. I never gave them much merit as I saw other passengers sporting them but now I sing their praises from above. Cutting out that extra noise has allowed me to tune into my internal self and not focus on the sound of the jets or the landing gear moving or anything else that startles me. I can confidently say that these will remain a crucial member of my carry-on gear.
- Meditation. Do it. It’s a wonderful, highly effective tool. I’ve had flights when I’ve literally passed hours by meditating. Visualization can come from meditation. I have spent huge chunks of bumpy rides just visualizing being on a roller coaster or on a pot-hole filled road. It helps. Or at least it gives you something to occupy your mind while you get through it.
- Lay down. One time we were surprised at the gate with an upgrade. Sure we felt super out of place toasting our champagne in grungy backpacker clothes, but with that one taste of luxury, we’ve been dreaming of it ever since. Being horizontal just makes everything better. Even patches of rough turbulence seemed to lull me to sleep rather than than cause my eyes to bulge and my knuckles to whiten. Obviously, upgrades are rare and very few of us can afford the cost of these seats, but even if there is a row of empty seats (as soon as you move the belts from digging into your ribs), that should do the trick.
- Drink LOTS of water and choose an aisle seat if you can. Just knowing you have the ability to get up gives you a sense of freedom and gets rid of that whole trapped feeling. And as for the water – it’s just good sense!