A few tips to help you on your journey…
Don’t Hide Your Fear
There is no reason to hide your fear. Feel free to mention it to the flight attendants and even ask if you can go up to the cockpit and visit with the pilots. As an airline pilot myself, I can tell you that this is very common. Ask your pilots questions and mention your anxiety (after all, they are going to be locked up in the cockpit for the next several hours and will probably enjoy the opportunity for conversation). The pilots and flight attendants will do all that they can to calm your fears, answer your questions, and emphasize your safety. They really do care and want to help. Plus, their confidence can be contagious. Just make sure that you take advantage of this opportunity on the ground as you will not be able to go in to the cockpit once the plane is in flight. Also, mention your fear to the person sitting next to you. They can help to calm you and take your mind off the flight. Remember, there are tons of people with a fear of flying. You are not alone and the airline crew is more than happy to help.
…pilots and flight attendants will do all that they can to calm your fears, answer your questions, and emphasize your safety.
Bring some things to keep you busy. Keeping your mind occupied with a movie or book will help you avoid thinking about the flight. The best option is to bring a laptop, tablet, or phone and to make sure that you download or rent a movie before you head to the airport. Movies can be a more engaging distraction than a book with both video and audio that will help take your mind off the flight. If possible, try to pick an up-beat movie like a comedy. Avoid scary, suspense, or action movies that might inadvertently increase your anxiety or stress level. If you don’t feel like watching a movie, then try listening to some of your favorite music. It may seem silly, but I would encourage you to even sing along in your head. Of course, books and magazines can also be helpful.
Plan to get to the airport with plenty of time. You certainly do not need the added stress of possibly being late for your flight. Give yourself enough time to get through security, use the restroom, buy some food, and sit for a little while. Flying can be a big ordeal, why make it any harder on yourself?
Flex your muscles
If at any point you begin to feel stressed or anxious, tense your muscles. If you feel nervous or anxious, you could be unconsciously contracting various muscles in your body. By consciously flexing or tensing your muscles, you’ll also be able to override some of your unconscious muscle contractions by then releasing them. There’s a good chance that by doing this during the flight, you may find that you are squeezing the armrest as if it was a rope and you are hanging on for dear life. Instead, practice tightening certain muscles and then relaxing them. This will increase your awareness of your own body and enable you to consciously help your body to relax. Tense your upper or lower body muscles and then release. This should help to calm you and put your body at ease.
Often times when we are stressed (from exercise or anxiety) we don’t remember to breathe. Simply regulating your own breathing has been scientifically proven to relax the body. If you find yourself getting tense, take a long, deep breath through your nose and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat and continue for a couple of minutes until you find yourself relaxing. Still forgetting to breathe? Keep a bottle of water in front of you on the flight. Try to take a sip if you’re feeling anxious. This simple act will force you to breath in through your nose, helping to reduce your stress.
…forgetting to breathe? Keep a bottle of water in front of you on the flight. Try to take a sip if you’re feeling anxious.
Go with the flow
When we get nervous, we tend to get warm and even sweat. Reach up above you and open the air vent. The cold air flow should help to calm your nerves and cool you down. It might even cut back on the sweat and help make the rest of your journey more comfortable.
Drink up and hydrate, but cut out Caffeine
Try to avoid coffee and other stimulants. The effects of caffeine and sugar will only make you restless and potentially increase your anxiety. Instead, drink lots of water and try to avoid becoming dehydrated. Additionally, be wary of alcoholic beverages. These come with some adverse effects and could be extremely detrimental if they happen to be combined with any anti-anxiety medications!
Learn what to expect when flying (sights, sounds, experiences, etc.) Go online and try looking at pictures of the airplane cabin that you will be riding on. You can save a copy on your electronic devices to look at periodically while sitting at home or in a comfortable place. This will help you familiarize yourself with the airplane environment and ultimately condition your brain and body to make you feel more relaxed once you are actually on the plane.
Seek Professional Help
If, after trying all of these suggestions, you still are not relatively comfortable when flying, consult a licensed professional who specializes in fears of flying and the associated anxiety. Do not take prescription medications before or during a flight without consulting a medical professional. There’s a chance that some medications will not be helpful or could make things worse.