Traveling, in general, can trigger your anxiety, whether it be fearing flying, worrying about getting lost, stressing about money, or imagining worst-case scenarios. For me all the above hold true, however, I can particularly be quite the fearful flyer. Now I won’t bore you with the details of why and when this all started but being an anxious flyer is common. As a lover of travel, I refuse to let this stop me from conquering my bucket list. Over the years, I have found ways to manage my anxiety and make the journey more bearable. Here are my top tips for anxious flyers, from pre-flight preparation to post-flight relaxation.
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Pre-flight anxiety can often be the worst of the trip. The anticipation, worrying and stressing about all things that may go wrong. Here is how I prepare to board a flight with ease.
Organisation brings a sense of calm and can allow you to deal with any circumstances that may arise. I ensure I have packed all my carry-on essentials, if you’re interested in checking out my carry-on packing list, see here.
- Arrive early
There’s one way to spike the heart rate and trigger anxiety, being late to the airport. For international flights, I aim to arrive 3 hours early, particularly during peak travel times. Arriving early also gives you time to sit and have a coffee before, or even a glass of wine to help you relax.
Water is a must! Purchase a water bottle at the airport to ensure you have easy access to water on the flight.
- Deep Breathing
When I feel the anxious thoughts set in, I start taking some deep slow breaths to help calm myself down. I highly recommend you try box breathing or four square breathing technique, here’s why. Box breathing reduces physical stress on the body, reduces anxiety, increases mental clarity, and improves future reactions to stress.
A great way to calm pre-flight anxiety is to distract yourself. Walk around the shops in the airport is great because it also gets you moving before a long flight of sitting. Even pop some headphones in and just walk up and down the airport.
During the Flight
My next tips for anxious flyers are about managing anxiety during the flight. During the flight, anxiety often comes in waves. Here’s what I do to help remain as calm and comfortable as possible.
- Deep Breathing
Firstly, box breathing again is fantastic for when the nervousness begins to set in. Do this throughout the flight to stay calm.
Headphones are amazing for drowning out any sounds that may trigger your worries. If you use wireless headphones ensure they are fully charged and grab a spare pair of headphones when boarding the plane for when they need charging.
- Scarf to cover ears and eyes
A scarf or sleeping mask is great for when you need to get some sleep or to help you feel a sense of escape if you need it. A scarf can be used to keep you warm, to cover your eyes, or cover your ears. A great way to block everything out and relax.
Next, getting enough sleep is super important for ensuring your anxiety isn’t heightened. It’s also great for making time go faster. I cannot sleep very well sitting up, surrounded by strangers, noises, and lights. I find sleep medications necessary for ensuring a couple of hours of quality sleep. Sleeping tablets are often prescription-only medication and require a trip to the doctor as they can be very addictive. Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter flight anxiety medication or sleeping medication to discuss the best solution for you. Melatonin is another option if you’re concerned about the risks and want a more natural alternative.
- Self- care
Take care of yourself during the flight. Drink plenty of water, have your favourite snacks handy, watch your favourite movie or read a book. Try and make the flight as enjoyable as possible. I also like to moisturise my skin, apply lip balm, and a relaxing hand cream, brush my teeth, deodorise, and have a spare pair of clothes packed if a change is necessary.
6. Enjoy a drink
Does alcohol help with flight anxiety? I like a glass of wine during dinner time on the flight to help me relax and enjoy the trip. If you are particularly sensitive to alcohol I would avoid it. Another consideration is mixing alcohol with any sleeping or anxiety medications. Sleeping medications mixed with alcohol can enhance the effects so keep this in mind.
You did it! You made it through the flight and it wasn’t so bad I bet! Now it’s time to enjoy your trip and have the time of your life! But first..
- Have a good night’s sleep and adjust to the new time zone.
When you arrive at your accommodation you will likely be exhausted and even jet lagged.
Some suggestions on adjusting to your new time zone include:
- Expose yourself to daylight to help reset your body clock. Get outside and enjoy the sunshine if possible.
- Drink caffeine in moderation during the day.
- Avoid alcohol or caffeine for a few hours prior to sleep at night.
- Try to mimic your usual bedtime routine.
- Use relaxation techniques.
- Take it easy and be kind to yourself
You may be feeling emotionally exhausted. Take the time you need to reset and re-adjust. Take it easy on your first day of the trip and do something that is easy or comforting to you. I like to take the first day to walk around the town, have a nice meal or spend the day at the beach or park.
- Enjoy your trip!
Finally, have the most amazing trip and take in every moment. Be thankful for the privilege of travel and stop and take a moment every once in and while to be proud of yourself for embarking on this adventure.
And that’s it! Hope you found these tips for anxious flyers helpful!