Headlines about airplanes failures, inconveniences on the way to the gate and the idea of being stuck on a plane full of unpredictable strangers can put the planner brain on high alert, but it doesn’t have to be a white-knuckle experience. With busy holiday and conference travel season in full swing, here are some easy tips to manage in-flight anxiety.
Prepare to Relax
The first step is to arrive with plenty of time to navigate TSA screening, thus sidestepping anxiety over missing the flight. Once you are on the other side of the metal detectors, find a quiet place to do some breathing exercises to calm the mind for the trip. Some major airports offer yoga rooms, gyms and therapy animals to help people relax.
Many mindfulness activities take less than 10 minutes and can reduce the physical manifestations of stress. They can help you focus on the present, rather than repeating dire what-if scenarios on an endless loop. Free-writing for 10-15 minutes without judgement is one way to focus on thoughts. Another tool is to listen music and concentrate on the song’s sounds and vibrations. If negative thoughts arrive, accept them and deliberately return to the music.
Travel is a Team Effort
Pilots, flight attendants, and Air Traffic Control ensure the flight goes smoothly and safely. The safety lecture about oxygen masks and emergency exits are tools to keep everyone safe. Tom Bunn LCSW, a retired airline captain and licensed therapist with over 20 years of experience, says air travel is one of the safest ways to get from point A to point B. Pilots are required to have at least 1,500 hours of experience with a supervisor pilot before flying on their own and most have years of experience flying commercial vehicles before given the captain’s wings. Modern aircraft are built to exacting standards and flights are monitored closely. Airplane attendants are onboard to help in case of emergencies. Everyone has the same goal: getting you and your attendees to their destination safely.
Calming Ways to Use Time
Bringing a few objects from home can help reduce anxiety during the flight. Books, magazines, crosswords, a coloring book and a playlist of favorite songs are good ways to stay relaxed. You can even bring your own blanket or pillow if preferred. Avoid coffee, caffeine, alcohol and energy drinks because it can contribute to in-flight anxiety or dehydration.