Tips & Tricks: How to cope with Flight Anxiety

Most people, if not everyone, have that one blinding fear that stops them in their tracks. For someone who flies as often as me, I have a huge fear of turbulence and tremendous flight anxiety. Me? Scared of something? Who would’ve thunk it but ‘tis true.

I can’t say that flying is my #1 fear, but it’s definitely up there (right along with snakes and all other scaly creatures). My tactic for most fears is to ignore them; after all, ignorance is bliss (or so they say). The problem is I can’t ignore this one if I want to travel. I’m going to share with you the habits I’ve acquired along the way that have helped me cope (KEYWORD: COPE) with my flight anxiety.

Before the flight:

Turbulence Forecast. The app/website “turbulence forecast” has seriously become my best friend. I am guilty of using it waaaaaaay too much but I think it’s a great tool. The name is self-explanatory: it’s a map that forecasts potential turbulence. If you’ve done your research, you already know that turbulence can occur at any moment so a forecast will never be 100% accurate, but it helps me to expect it rather than be surprised when it hits. I use this app before/during EVERY flight and so far it has not let me down.

Tips: If you go on the website (click here) you can send a message to Peter, the founder, and he will send you a personalized forecast based on your specific flight for a small fee. I am totally okay with deciphering the map myself, so I have not used this feature but I’m glad it is there for extreme situations.

Don’t think about it. Yes I know that sounds like terrible advice, but hear me out! Sometimes our own overthinking and stress makes a situation worse than it really is. Instead of worrying about the flight, think about the destination and what you plan on doing once you’re there.

Sit in the car as a passenger, close your eyes, and feel the bumps. Have you ever sat in your car and focused on how truly bumpy a car ride is? Probably not. We’re so accustomed to driving that we don’t feel anything during a ride, its second nature to us. When you try this out you will realize that no form of transportation will be 100% smooth all of the time.

And now that we’re on the subject of cars…

-Stick your hand out the window and try to keep it totally still against the wind. Can you? Probably not. But did your hand fall out? No again. So if you cant keep your hand still while the car is moving, what makes you think that 76 tons of aluminum thousands of feet up in the air will be? It might be bumpy, but it won’t fall out of the sky.

During the flight:

Sit near the wing. The wing is the part of the plane that has the most support and reinforcement, so it makes sense that it is the part of the plane where you would feel the least turbulence if it were to hit. You might have to pay a little extra to score these seats, but sometimes your peace of mind is worth it.

-Look out the window. This method works best for me if I’m sitting near or around the wing. Fear of turbulence makes you think the plane fell thousands of feet in a matter of seconds therefore giving you the feeling that you’re falling out of the sky when it hits but in reality the plane has probably barely shifted from its altitude, that’s why I find it helpful to look out the window and align the wing of the plane to a point of focus of my choosing and realize that the plane isn’t losing control as much as my mind thinks it is.

Tips: If you happen to be flying on a plane with a screen, you can always turn to the map channel and your altitude will be displayed there. Watch it during turbulence or whenever you feel uneasy, you’ll see that the altitude barely shifts.

-Let the flight crew know/talk about it. Fellow introverts, I promise, it will be worth it. Keeping your mouth shut and holding in yours fears will not do you any good. The crew will not point and laugh or announce your irrational fears on the intercom system, really! From experience I can tell you that it might make you feel better, you’ll probably end up with special treatment, or even free goodies to calm your nerves.

Brings things to keep you busy and distracted. Going to sleep might not be your cuppa tea, especially if you’re too nervous. Brings things to keep your mind busy: magazine or books to read I’ve read some tips from other bloggers suggesting to even bring coloring books. This method did not work for me because trying to hard to stay inside the lines made me extra-aware of every movement and bump along the way.

Make a happy/epic music playlist. Sing, dance, whatever.

Story time, a couple months ago I was getting ready to board a flight from Philadelphia to Miami when the flight was delayed a bit because of weather conditions. I was freaking out. I was a wreck. Guys, I cried. I approached a flight attendant who was flying standby and  she advised I should speak to the Pilot if I really was all that nervous. So I did.

Pilot: Why are you scared? Do you drive in Miami? I’d be more scared of our highways and crazy drivers than flying. 

&that piece of advise brings me to my next and final point,

-Think back to the bumps you felt during a car ride. Remember before the flight you closed your eyes in the car and felt the bumps? Think of the bumpiest street you experienced and how it felt (for me, its a highway called ‘Palmetto’ in Miami that has been under construction since before 1993). Chances are, its pretty similar to the feel of turbulence, at least for me. So  if you every see me during turbulence in a plane ride, if I look cool and collected, chances are I’m thinking about that pilot and my Miami Palmetto.

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