Dealing with flight anxiety sucks, plain and simple. Especially when you’re a frequent traveler or, like me, a travel writer. Here are some tips on staying calm and soaring easy as you blast through the air at 600 mph in a giant metal tube with 400 other people. Which, y’know is totally casual and normal and not something to be freaked out by.
Enjoy your flight.
Prepare yourself for turbulence.
Turbulence is the perfectly normal occurrence that shakes you up like a can of Coke 35,000-feet above the ground while everyone acts freakishly normal. No big deal, right? Wrong. It’s a horrifying experience that leaves your stomach in your throat, your forehead shined in sweat, and your body sore from tensing up like a soaked cat.
One way I prepare myself — besides just accepting the fact that turbulence will occur — is using Turbcast (on iTunes for $1.99). It’s designed by a pilot and shows all those terrifying air pockets and thunderstorms along your route to get you ready for a bumpy ride.
And remember, turbulence is simply caused when bodies of air moving at different speeds collide and is only dangerous if you don’t fasten your seatbelt. Even then, your chances of being hurt are pretty damn slim.
See what your statistics are of going down.
The Am I Going Down app (on iTunes for $2.99) is unbelievably helpful for me before a flight. I plug in the airline I’m flying with, the type of airplane I’ll be in, and the destination of my flight. It will then give me the chances of my plane going down. Morbid, I know. But hey, it helps.
Flying with Qantas on a Boeing 747-400 going from Sydney to Atlanta? If you were to take this flight every day, you’d make it 32,566 years before going down. In other words, that’s a 1 in 11,886,909 chance. But who’s keeping count?
Me. I am.
Hold your breath, force it out as long as possible like you’re blowing out a candle, and repeat. Do this during takeoff and bouts of turbulence because trust me — once that breathing is all out of whack and you start freaking out (because who could blame you?), you risk the chance of hyperventilation. Once that happens, it’s pretty hard to come back down. Also, don’t cling to the armrests — it’ll only make you tense up and feel more anxious. Relax your body, breathe deeply, and go back to watching HBO on a tiny finger-smudged screen as you were.
And, no, I don't mean pre-flight when you look around at your seatmates and decide if you're cool with them being the last people you hang out with or not.
During takeoff and turbulence, it helps me to see everyone else remaining calm and unphased. Sure, there's a part of me that wants to yell "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? DO YOU NOT FEEL THIS?" but then I'm reminded that they're acting like everything is all good because, well, it is.
Breathe again. Relax.
Watch a movie. Read a book. Get into a five-hour conversation with someone on his way to London to rescue his girlfriend from her oppressive parents so they can elope to Mexico. Color a picture.
Stop thinking about the missing Malaysia plane.
And the plane shot down in Ukraine. And the one that crashed in France. And the — *slaps self*
Stop it. Just stop it. Sure, plane crashes and flight mishaps have been a source of topic in the news over the past couple of years, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to you. In fact, it’s not going to happen to you. It just isn’t. Get those news stories out of your mind and think about your destination at the other end of that plane.
But if your mind won’t let you forget about stories you’ve seen in the news, settle on the one where that badass pilot water landed in the Hudson River after a bunch of birds screwed up the engines, saving all 155 passengers and crew.
However, as I repeat, you’re not going to crash.
Start thinking about percents.
There’s a 99.99999999999% chance your flight will land safely. There’s a 99.99999999999% chance your flight will land safely.There’s a 99.99999999999% chance your flight will land safely.There’s a 99.99999999999% chance your flight will land safely.There’s a 99.99999999999% chance your flight will land safely.
Keep repeating that to yourself.
Know you’re not alone.
Because I — along with about 30% of the world — are right there with you. Getting anxious on a flight is never enjoyable, but there’s always room to work on your mental ability to handle these uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying situations. If you have an intense phobia that a blog post won’t change, try seeking further help because no one should ever feel trapped on the ground.
And as always, breathe.