1. Become a fear accountant
It’s not such a big leap to accept that wisdom can be couched deeply within cliché. Laughter is the best medicine, Variety is the spice of life. Another deceptively wise cliché that is especially relevant: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” We often fear what we do not know, or what we have not accounted for. The “What If” scenarios race through our minds like wild, unbroken Italian ponies through the scenic Occitan valley. “What if I can’t find a ride to the airport, what if they lose my luggage, what if I’m too late to board?” These questions have nagged us all from time to time. The important thing is to account for them. Answer as many travel anxiety questions as you can – “If this person can’t give me a ride, I’ll set aside money for an Uber, if I’m so worried about my luggage being lost, I’ll pack as much into a carry-on as possible, etc.” The more of these questions that you answer, you’ll find anxiety’s grip will slacken exponentially.
2. Avoid Caffeine
People have been drinking coffee on the record since the 10th century if you can believe that. The research has always been wishy-washy on the benefits and detriments of coffee. Some studies say drinking lots of coffee maintains prostate health, others say it causes irritability. Some studies have concluded that caffeine intake halves the risks of both mouth and throat cancer and suicide. As much as we’d normally like to tout the benefits of a cup of coffee in the morning, there’s no getting around the fact that caffeine is a stimulant, and stimulants can exacerbate anxiety. If you’re already anxious about airplanes, it might serve you to skip the cuppa when the beverage cart comes around. Avoiding coffee also decreases your chances of having to use the lavatory mid-flight which can be harrowing for white-knuckle flyers.
3. Breathe in and Breathe Out
It always comes back to breathing. You’d think there’d be no way to mess up something so simple that we do it automatically. Lo, behold, we’ve found a way to breathe wrong. Most of us don’t take full, diaphragmatic breaths. Instead, we take sips of breath.
We tend to take sips of a breath,” says Boston, “and hold it when we’re anxious, both of which can have a ripple effect through the system. One bad habit, like shallow breathing, triggers another. Breathing incorrectly can make you more susceptible to lower back pain.
Shallow breath limits the amount of oxygen getting to our lungs, which in turn can send a set of signals off that cause us to panic. Sitting on a plane for any length of time is really a perfect opportunity to practice deep breathing. Located here is a list of different techniques you can try the next time you find yourself nervous and airborne. We personally like the 4-7-8 technique and find it immensely helpful.
4. Learn more about Airplanes
Our imaginations are considerably more powerful than we give them credit for. This is great when we’re writing, or envisioning ourselves completing future goals. But fear can often hijack our imaginations, especially when we make assumptions about things we have little knowledge about – like how airplanes function. It’s a little like when you try to take a picture at night – the camera sensor loses detail in the darkness and generates noise. This ‘noise’ takes the form of brightly colored pixels that fill in the too-dark gaps in an image. Much like a camera sensor, your mind fills in gaps of knowledge with colorful and fantastical assumptions. For example, let’s say you’re on an airplane and you experience some turbulence. The very, very nervous passenger may immediately jump to conclusions – “This plane is going down! We’re losing an engine! There’s some sort of gremlin on the wing!” We have to call these negative thoughts out for what they are – pure fantasy. Most fears about airplanes stem from a very basic lack of knowledge. You would do well to eliminate as many unknowns as you can through the power of research. As for the big, bad, stress-inducer, we call turbulence? You can take some comfort in knowing that it’s the air equivalent to bumps in the road.
5. Movies, Games, Sudoku, Crosswords, Oh My
This is one of those things that we all sort of know inherently but never think about. There’s something about refocusing our attention and generally distracting ourselves that really diffuses anxiety. What better way to soothe a restless mind than by doing some dang sudoku, as it were? It doesn’t have to be sudoku, maybe it’s a crossword or the in-flight movie or a video game of some sort. Science agrees: “the more you engage with life the less stagnant and anxious you will feel.”
In order to quickly move away from generalized anxiety you need to throw yourself 100% into life. What is needed is to engage regularly in an activity that stimulates you, and holds your complete attention, something in which you can become completely absorbed.
Here, engaging means treating yourself to some entertainment and general stimulation. Did any of these tips help ease your travel worries? Have any tips of your own to share with some equally nervous flyers? Comment below, and share this article. You never know who you might help.