12 Ways to Deal with Flight Anxiety

It’s no secret that I suffer from fairly extreme flight anxiety. I joke about needing tequila as a pregame but the truth is that the anxiety is bordering on severe, nearly debilitating, and ongoing. I’ve felt unable to manage it or mitigate its effects for decades, and it’s really not that funny.


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Flying can suck. Yes, it is a modern day marvel and a privilege to experience that many will never have. There are just so many factors working together that can lend themselves to a tense experience; the parking lots, security lines, connections and delays, lack of inexpensive healthy snacks and free water, to name a few. And there are a host of fears that accompany any trip into the sky.

It all comes down to control, and our ability (or inability!) to relax into situations where we don’t have it. To accept that everything is already ok, even if we don’t know how yet.

My arsenal of tricks for dealing with it is growing, as I get older. Moving from alcohol and tranquilizers to preparation, meditation, crystals and mindset work. These are the 12 ways I prepare to get my flight on with a smile.

  1. Travel Light.  Admittedly I am still working on this, but I will continue to work on it until I am able to take the appropriate amount of clothing and shoes for the time I am spending away from my home. I cut it down by half between California and Germany, and still wore less than half the clothing I brought to Europe. Having 30lbs less luggage to lug made dealing with logistics so much easier, imagine what 15lbs would have been like! Fold all items you plan to pack and sort on your bed before you put them in your suitcase. Put half back in your drawers before packing. Accept that if you absolutely NEED another shirt (or towel or shoe or necklace or bag), you will probably be able to track one down where you are going. Breathe.
  1. Avoid bringing your vehicle to the airport. Surely you have nice enough friends that they are willing to hang with your 4 person entourage and luggage two hours each way on an adventure, no? Ok then, instead:
  1. Valet park your vehicle. It sounds extravagant, I know. Surrounding the airport we typically fly out of there are a range of “you park, we park” options. It costs as low as $4 more a day to have them park and find your vehicle while you shuffle back and forth on a shuttle to be dropped at your airline and then back again at your vehicle. Zero “dude where’s my airline?” or “dude where’s my car?” drama. Worth it.
  1. Get to the airport two hours before your flight. Give yourself time to make it through the biggest security line you can imagine comfortably and rage free (you know everyone is going to travel the same day and time as you so why fight it?) , and still have time to grab a snack or a book, and hit the last spacious bathroom you’ll see for a while. But before you do that,
  1. When you get to the other side of security, walk to your gate. Shit happens and gates change, make sure you know the final location of yours before you decide how much time you have to do any wandering.
  1. Bring an empty water bottle in your carryon. Fill it after security. Hydrate as needed and on YOUR time on the plane!
  1. Speaking of security, there are a few ways you can make that go smoother as well:
    1. put your small bottles of liquids and gels into a ziplock at home before they go into your bag
    2. wear slip on shoes (and socks if airport floors wig you out)
    3. be ready to take your laptop and tablets out of your bag before you put it on the conveyor
  1. Bring snacks. A bag of trail mix, an apple, a hardboiled egg, some jerky; they don’t take up much room and will nourish your body. Flying is hard on us physically too, feeding and hydrating ourselves goes a long way toward recovery!
  1. Use your hands. I recently watched a TED talk by Alanna Shaikh in which she talked about how she was preparing for Alzheimer’s disease in the wake of living through it with her father. One way she prepares to sooth herself in the (likely) event her memories will fade away some day is to teach her hands repetitive movements the muscles will remember long after her brain does. I realized at that moment that I had absolutely nothing that would give me comfort if I forgot how to read or write, so I set out to teach my hands to crochet. The practice has helped me immensely.   I brought a hook and small balls of yarn in my computer bag and crocheted washcloths both ways. It was incredibly soothing to have a productive place to put my nervous energy.
  1. Find a touchtone. For years I have been carrying a small angel with me in my luggage wherever I go. Knowing she was in the plane with me comforted me when I remembered. Recently I have started wearing that comfort around my neck in the form of a piece of As Is Jewelry by Erin Brown. Feeling its coolness against my skin centres me. Being able to hold it relaxes me. I know much less about why this is so than Erin does, so head over to her site (iamerinbrown.com) to learn more and buy a piece. The quality is amazing for the price.  I love both of mine.
  1. Breathe. Having babies changed the power of breath forever for me, and I’ve learned how to use it to calm myself. I’m fairly certain I now sound like I’m in labour while being tattooed and on airplanes but it works, so I’m going with it.
  1. Go dark. Warning, this one won’t be for everyone. 25 years ago I was in a bus accident with a group of girls aged 8-18 whom I preformed with in a dance and musical theatre company. I was 11. There were permanent disfigurements and fatalities, things I will never, ever forget seeing. Years of healing work I will never forget doing. Peoples’ lives changed in ways I had never imagined. I understand the fear of relinquishing control. I have lived through what happens when it goes wrong. I also understand that my panic will do nothing to change the outcome except upset me. Our reaction and mood and chatter are the only things in our power to control.

So go light. Know that even in your worst-case scenario, everything is already ok. Life will march on for the people we love and the people we don’t. The other option, not going, is limiting yourself in a way you chose not to, so have a snack, make something with your hands (even if it’s just a new high candy crush score), and embrace the adventure!

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  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px 12 Ways to Deal with Flight Anxiety
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px 12 Ways to Deal with Flight Anxiety
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px 12 Ways to Deal with Flight Anxiety
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px 12 Ways to Deal with Flight Anxiety
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px 12 Ways to Deal with Flight Anxiety
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px 12 Ways to Deal with Flight Anxiety
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px 12 Ways to Deal with Flight Anxiety

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