Identify causes and symptoms
The first step to overcoming flight anxiety is to identify what part of travel causes you to be anxious. 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 anxiety, it helps to identify your triggers in advance so you can prevent them.
Prevention over cure
You can often 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). This can help you feel more organised and less anxious about the journey.
- Plan when you will arrive at the airport, with time to spare.
- Organise your airport transport in advance and 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 by not causing unnecessary stress, and understanding what to do if you feel stressed or anxious.
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 like completing a book, indulging in a TV series or getting some work done will occupy your mind instead of allowing it to wander.
Techniques for combatting flight anxiety
- Focus on mindfulness colouring books. This is a meditative exercise designed to occupy your mind, and you can easily pick them up prior to flying.
- Practice meditation and pranayama breathing method. Deep breathing and meditation can help calm your body and mind. As a sample exercise, breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds.
- Walk up and down the aisle, and stretch.
- Make the most of visualisation. Visualisation 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.
Your flight is at 7am, and you have to get to the airport 2 hours before. We know it can be tempting to throw back an espresso, but the caffeine will stay in your system for a few hours afterward. This can exacerbate any anxious conditions. Stay away from caffeinated drinks and opt for decaffeinated herbal tea instead.