As a self-confessed worrier, flying pushed my anxiety to another level. Before boarding a flight, every possible horror scenario would whirl into my head and I’d have to force myself to get on board.
But if you flew with me now, I’m (pretty much) a beacon of calm. A few more long-haul flights, meditation techniques and scientific reassurance later and I’m now – for the most part – a calm and collected flyer. Here, I share my top tips for tackling that anxiety and fear of flying.
Try a little meditation
One of the best ways to stay calm when I’m feeling a bit anxious on a flight is to meditate. I find mindfulness and breathing techniques really useful and you can download so many different free meditation or sound apps (think rainforest birdsong or whale noises!) to your phone before the flight. My favourites are Headspace, Calm and Rain Rain, which offer guided de-stress meditations you just listen along to. Just plug in and chill during take off.
Bring some home comforts
I know bringing my favourite travel pillow on the flight helps me feel more relaxed. I also like to look through photos of my dog on my phone because a) I feel more comforted and b) who doesn’t love looking at pictures of their dogs?
Travel with a friend
I would now be comfortable to travel solo but in the height of my flying fear I would always need someone I knew nearby to help me get through a flight. Travelling with your friends, family or partner is a great way to keep distracted and who better to hold your hand during take-off and landing?
Talk to those around you
Going solo? Don’t fret. I know at first it might be a bit cringe, but you can always strike up a conversation with the person next to you or even a cabin crew member to help put you at ease. A friendly face and a good chat can help pass the time and you never know, you may even make a new friend by initiating a conversation.
Wear comfy clothing
I made the error of wearing jeans on a long-haul flight and never again will I make that mistake. I find that when I can snuggle up into my chair comfortably, I can relax a bit more mid-air. I recommend wearing light cotton trousers plus a couple of layers. Once the air-con kicks in I find that the plane is always freezing and there’s nothing worse than being too cold to sleep.
It’s official, flying is the safest form of travel. I was always terrified that turbulence was dangerous but according to pilots and scientific reports, turbulence is completely safe and can be easily controlled. I sometimes speak to cabin crew during rockier moments just for some reassurance that everything is okay. Turbulence feels scary but cabin crew deal with it on the daily, so I try to remind myself that I’m safe and in 20 minutes all will be smooth sailing again.
Watch a film
Laughter is the best form of medicine after all so why not stick on a funny film and have a laugh to distract yourself from any panicked thoughts? My top tips are to watch films you haven’t seen before so you focus on the plot line and to avoid any films about flying – well, duh.
Focus on your arrival destination
Where the fun part can begin! Planning what to do on arrival and chatting to others about what you’re excited to do is a great way to focus on the positives. And even if your flight is travelling back to your home destination you can reflect on your great adventures or even check out the in-flight magazine to help you plan your next journey.
Whether you are a seasoned traveller or a new solo flyer – flying can be a daunting experience. I still grab for my sister’s hand during a spell of turbulence! But these techniques have drastically changed my flying experience and they can help yours too. If you need more help overcoming your flying anxiety, check out your local mental health or anxiety support network for more information.