5 Tips on How To Overcome Flight Anxiety


For a person who has such an intense desire to explore the world, I worry too much about things that are statistically improbable far too often. One of those things is air travel. It’s not a concious decision to pay attention to every bump or noise that occurs, it’s like my brain has been trained to pick these things out, disect their meaning, and conclude that it will inevitably lead to my demise.

Who wants to deal with that? No one.

Anxiety is not a choice, but it is something that can be dealt with. I know there are others out there who may experience this same sort of in-flight anxiety. As hard is it can be to overcome, I’m here to give you some tips on how to deal with it. I for one, refuse to let it prevent my from exploring. Check out my list, and please feel free to add to it in the comments section below.

  1. Drugs

No, not illegal drugs. I’m not sitting here telling you to go to the airport asking people what they have in their carry-ons and can you please have some? No, go to your doctor and just tell him or her the emotions you experience. They know your history and can give you something that will be safe and hopefully help. Some people prefer to combat the anxiety without medication. If that’s you, keep reading.

2. Distraction

If you’re taking long-haul flights across the world where you’ll be spending 10 to 14 hours in the sky, you’re going to want to come prepared with something to occupy that wandering mind of yours. Long flights like these will obviously have in-flight entertainment. (On my last trip to Vietnam, I forced myself to watch Aladdin). Listening to Robin Williams as the genie gave me a temporary distraction from the completely normal bumps and bounces of the plane that my brain loves to classify as “DANGER”. You can also create a playlist of songs that you love, close your eyes and focus on the music. Bring a book you’ve been wanting to read. Pick up a journal and write down your feelings about the trip. Make lists of things you want to do or see once you get to your destination, which will statistically occur, safely. Just bring something to do, because you’re going to have time and you don’t want to spend it clinging to the the person next to you who is likely questioning his/her choice in seating.

3. Tell Someone

So, you get a little (or a lot) nervous on flights. You’re trapped, you’re not in control. Don’t suffer in silence. If your neighbors speak the same language as you, let them know you get a little nervous. More often than not, people are extremely comforting in these situations. If you run into a situation like mine where one of your neighbors is asleep and the other only spoke Korean, tell the flight attendants. Sure, they have other things to do throughout the flight besides coddle you, but it’s also their job to reassure passengers everything will be fine. On my way to South Korea (first leg on my trip), I made friends will all the flight attendants. One of them told me that in her 4 years working for the airline, there has never been one instance where she was scared or where there was an emergency. It reassured me. Did she laugh at me with all of her friends behind my back? Maybe. But I made it through. The point is, don’t be ashamed or afraid to tell someone this makes you anxious.

4. Plan ahead

What is it about planes that makes you the most anxious? Statistically speaking, the back of the airplane is safer in the event of a crash, but it’s also much bumpier and turbulent back there. For me, it’s the feeling that I’m not in control and I start picking apart every action of the flight attendants or movement of the airplane. So, for my trip back, I let them know I get nervous at the check-in desk. They arranged for me to sit in the aisle close to the galley where the flight attendants gather. Not only was I able to get up and walk around if I didn’t want to sit still, but I had the flight attendants close-by, in case I needed to look over and get a reassuring smile that yes, everything is fine.

5. Tire yourself out

Sleep is the ultimate time-burner. Many people note that they wish they could just fall asleep and wake up and be at their destination. Unfortunately anxiety can often prevent that from happening. Make it easier for yourself. If you’re not comfortable taking sleeping pills, work out before your flight. Do some cardio before you go to the airport. You can also try and schedule your flight at night, so your body will be ready to sleep. Most internationally flights offer free wine, too. Don’t get crazy, but a glass or 2 might help calm the nerves.

If you are like me and want to see the world but the idea of flying makes you nervous, explore ways to deal with it. Don’t ever let it prevent you from taking that dream vacation or from a new experience. There are also online courses available for free that help with understanding flying and how safe it really is. I found this course by Captain Stacey Chance to be very helpful. It won’t take more than an hour and is completely free.


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