Identify causes and symptoms
The first step is to identify what part of travel causes you to be anxious, and what the side effects are of that. For example, it might be a fear of heights, which comes into play mid-flight, claustrophobia, which can be set off in many airport situations, or aviophobia (fear of flying).
In order to help prevent the anxiety or panic attack, it can help to identify your triggers in advance, so you can work on preventing them.
Prevention over cure
Usually, you can help anxiety by understanding the condition and preventing situations that may cause panic attacks to happen.
How to prevent a panic attack when travelling
- Research the necessary documents for the flight (visas, vaccinations and required onward travel plans)
- Plan when you will arrive at the airport, with time to spare
- Organise your airport transport in advance + check again on the day
- Weigh bags at home, to avoid any mishaps at check-in
- Research what is necessary for security and customs (liquids, animal produce)
Tell travel companions
If you’re travelling with a group, it’s wise to let them know that you’re prone to anxiety. This means that they can also act accordingly – not causing unnecessary stress, and understanding what to do if you do start to panic.
Plan for the plane journey
You can make the plane ride a little easier by choosing a seat that will make you comfortable. Need space to walk? Look for an aisle seat. Prefer to snuggle up by the window? Grab a window seat.
You should also plan for distractions. Setting a goal of completing a book, a TV series or getting some work done will occupy your mind, instead of allowing it to wander.
Techniques for combatting flight anxiety
- Mindfulness colouring books. This is a meditative exercise designed to occupy your mind, and you can easily pick them up prior to flying
- 4 7 8/Pranayama Breathing Method. Breathe in for 4, hold it for 7, and exhale for 8 seconds. This maximises the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, and promotes a ‘calm’ feeling. Pranayama is the Sanskrit term for the regulation of breathing, in order to feel the health benefits.
- Walk up and down the aisle, and stretch. It’s believed that we hold tension within our muscles, and when you’re in a cramped plane seat, it’s hard to release them.
- Visualisation. This is another method for taking your mind to another place, visualise your happy place – somewhere you’ve been before, and focus on that, rather than the situation in hand. Combined with slow breathing, you should feel your heart rate slow.
Your flight is at 7am, and you have to get to the airport 2 hours before. We know it can be pretty tempting to down an espresso, but the caffeine will stay in your system for a few hours afterward, and it usually exacerbates any anxious conditions. Stay away, and try drinking a decaffeinated herbal tea instead.
Look for natural cures that suit you
There are a number of medicinal remedies you can use to help combat anxiety. As always, it’s best to test these out before you travel.
Natural remedies for flight anxiety:
- Essential oils – lavender is known for it’s relaxing properties
- Melatonin is a natural remedy often used to promote sleep on planes