10 (kind of) helpful tips for your crippling flight anxiety

I love to travel. Obviously. And I’m pretty adventurous when I do. I’ll spend twenty-four hours in the mountains alone, walk a mile with a canoe on my back, or explore a new city with total strangers–no problem. But take a thirty minute flight to Chicago? Count me the hell out.

Flying is my biggest fear. And it’s not exactly a cute, quirky fear. It’s aggressive, to say the least.

I dread upcoming flights for months. The weeks before are full of heightened anxiety, and the day of is consumed with pure terror. I usually start shaking at boarding, I cry during take off, and sometimes I scream during turbulence. We’re talking white knuckle, wide-eyed panic that is one unexpected jolt away from hysteria. It’s not a cute look.

The good news is that I’ve learned a few things from years of battling flight anxiety. And my guess is that if you’re still reading this, you might benefit from my “expertise”. So here are ten things you can do to make your next flight a little easier for yourself and the poor family that got seated next to you.

1. Try to avoid traveling alone.

Solo travel is a blast. Solo flying for the anxious passenger? Not so much. Besides, the plane won’t crash if my dad is there. Right?

2. Get to your gate early.

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and go through security. Believe me, sprinting down 30 terminals with your shoes still off to make your flight in the next five minutes is not a stress reliever. 

3. Do NOT hit the terminal Starbucks pre-flight.

No matter how tempting that iced almond milk latte or peppermint mocha sounds right now, caffeine is the enemy. Treat yourself post-flight, okay? Your nerves will thank you during takeoff.

4. Call your mom.

Or your brother, step-dad, half-sister, best friend. Call your ex if that’s your jam. 

Our loved ones have a way of calming us down that no mid-air pep talk with the stewardess ever could.

5. Invest in heavy duty headphones.

Have you ever heard a plane engine change pitch mid-flight? Top 10 worst sounds of all time. Right up there with chalkboard nails and Justin Bieber’s new hit Yummy.

Do yourself a favor, ditch the AirPods and invest in some medical-grade noise cancelling ear wear. It’s just better this way.

6. Keep yourself busy.

The worst thing you can do is give yourself too much time to think about what’s happening. Nip your anxiety in the bud and open Disney+. The High School Musical franchise was produced for a reason. Thanks, Kenny Ortega.

7. Chew some mint gum.

Both the act of chewing gum and the flavor of mint have been shown to relieve stress. Throw a pack in your carry on. Besides, it’s never a bad idea to have good breath when you’re crammed between two strangers.

8. Let it all out.

Sometimes, when turbulence hits, the tears just start flowing. It’s okay to cry. Just make sure you don’t accidentally soak the shirt of the 26 year-old grad student sitting next to you.

9. Take a walk.

The fear of flying is linked with the fear of being out of control. Give your body back some autonomy and take a stroll to the lavatory. You’ll feel calmer, I promise.

While you’re in there, make sure to document the moment for your travel diary.

If you look closely you can see tear streaks.

10. Above all, remember that you have a higher chance of dying in a shark attack than in a plane crash.

[Editor’s Note: the statistics on this are sketchy but the point stands]

So, wherever you’re traveling next, make sure it’s not near the ocean.