Airplanes are one of the most common means of travel. They’re also arguably the safest: with the extensive security and advanced technology on an aircraft, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than be part of an airplane crash. Yet the aura of an airplane hasn’t always been the most amenable to mental health. Just think about it, you’re seated inside what is, for all practical purposes, a tin can, hurtling at obscenely high speeds thousands of feet above the ground tethered to no object of security. That’s enough to give anyone the occasional jitters. But for someone with anxiety that is triggered by heights, closed spaces, and or being trapped in places, a simple plane ride could mean panic attacks and prolonged stress and anxiety.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost twenty million Americans experience aviophobia, or the fear of flying.
Aviophobia could manifest in many ways: panic attacks, headaches, nausea, or general extreme anxiety before and during the flight. These symptoms range from traumatic to extremely inconvenient. While most doctor do prescribe anxiety medication for people who suffer from aviophobia, here are three simple tips to deal with the fear of flying when you have nothing but yourself.
I. Cut out caffeine from your diet at least 72 hours before flying.
Caffeine is a stimulant drug that is known to exacerbate anxiety. It may also deprive you of sleep, leaving you moody, jittery and prone to extreme mood swings. It is important to abstain from drinking coffee, sodas, or any beverages with caffeine in them in order to ensure a calm mental state before your flight.
II. Print out a positive affirmative to look at.
Anxiety is irrational. No amount of scientific facts to the contrary will ease the fear when your plane goes through unexpected turbulence. In these situations, what I find helpful is to an affirmative statement. “I will get home safely” printed out in bold usually does the trick. Print it out on a little sheet of paper, or make it your lock screen, and look at it when your anxiety rises. Reading it over and over not only gives you something to focus on, but also serves as an meditative mantra that can ease your nerves.
III. Listen to podcasts.
Flying with anxiety is especially difficult when you’re flying solo. Speaking to the person next to you isn’t always the best option when they are noticeably busy. So the next best resource is a podcast. Listening to people talk nonchalantly about any subject can be a great source of comfort in situations where you find yourself stressed beyond reason. Download a few before you board your flight (the funnier and more distracting, the better!), and be sure to perk up your ears and listen more intently every time you feel a tide of anxiety rising.