Flight anxiety is hard to overcome, but it’s not impossible to beat your body’s system.

The fear of flying can affect almost everyone at some point in their lives, but for some, it can be debilitating. Close to 20 percent of people have a severe form of flight anxiety that makes getting on a plane near impossible. These people that have flight anxiety are often most worried about how they’ll react while flying as opposed to whether or not they’ll land safely.

The old adage that you’re more likely to get into a car accident on the way to the airport than having anything terrible happen to you while on the plane is a cliche because it’s true, but that doesn’t exactly calm the nerves for people who suffer from severe flight anxiety.

Meta description: Simple but effective ways on how to get over flight anxiety. 

What is flight anxiety?

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Acting as a sort of anticipatory fear, flight anxiety is a type of phobia that comes on strong. The lack of control is generally attributed to anxiety, but when it comes to flight anxiety, that condition is heightened because of the sudden onslaught of stress hormones. Of course, when you’re sitting in a big metal tube flying through the sky, you have about as much control over the outcome of your flight as you do the weather.

Flight anxiety is sometimes brought on by a bad experience during a flight, whether that be turbulence, long wait times, or a general feeling of unease on a previous flight. The muscle memory of those events sticks around and can cause a newfound flight anxiety people might not have experienced before. It’s not only people who have flown who can experience flight anxiety, though. Even people who haven’t stepped foot in an airport can have a great fear of flying due to hearing about catastrophic events, seeing media coverage about a downed flight, or seeing a fictional account of a plane crash (looking at you, Final Destination.)

How can you overcome flight anxiety?

If just thinking about getting on a plane can trigger panic attack-like symptoms, you’re not alone. A third of all Americans reported having either a mild fear of flying or were fully afraid to fly because of their phobia. The reasons for the fears were different across the board, with the most common fears being mechanical issues with the plane and flying during bad weather.

The reason for the fear doesn’t change the effects a panic attack or flight anxiety can have on a person, but there are plenty of ways for someone to beat the flight anxiety and get on a plane without having major issues.

Practice meditation and visualization

Meditation has been a very popular practice in recent years to help to overcome racing thoughts and controlling where the mind goes.

A visualization meditation exercise can help you to picture yourself on the plane, happy and safe, and give yourself the ability to control the fears and help curb any flight anxiety that may go with them.

You should begin this process well before the flight so that when you do finally get on the plane, you have the whole visualization in your mind ready to be utilized. When you imagine yourself going to the airport, getting on the plane, and feeling calm through the entire scene, when you are finally acting it out in real life, your mind will recall these pleasant feelings.

Get a temporary prescription

There’s no harm in visiting your doctor to get a prescribed anti-anxiety medication to take while you’re on the flight. You’ll have to take this route well before your flight because your doctor may want you to trial your medication before flying to see how it will affect you.

Certain medications such as Xanax or Ativan have tranquilizing properties because they are benzodiazepines. These medications work by encouraging GAMA production in the brain, which is a chemical attributed to keeping anxiety at bay and helping to regulate mood. The initial effects of the medications will be tranquilization, which should help while flying.

Use distraction as a tool

The idle mind will race. That is a proven fact. If you can manage to find yourself some distraction techniques during the flight, you will be able to keep your mind busy enough to keep anxious thoughts at bay. Reading a book could help if you are able to focus, but the best way to distract yourself is to give yourself something difficult to do.

Working on a hard crossword puzzle while listening to music will help you zone into the task at hand while simultaneously zoning out of your surroundings. When you’re hyper-focused on something during the flight, things that might send you straight into a panic attack may not even be noticed.

Plan everything you can

Anxiety stems from a sense of lack of control, and for most flight scenarios, there’s not much you can do to control what happens. There are things you can control, though, so it’s best to plan every one of those things down to the letter so that you feel as prepared as possible.

If you are planning the times you’ll leave, how you’ll get there, what you’re packing, and how you’ll handle a panic attack if it does happen to hit while on the plane, you will increase the ability to control as much as possible, which should help keep the anxious thoughts buried while flying.

Don’t self medicate

Alcohol might be a first choice for many people with flight anxiety because after it’s consumed it feels as though the body is less on edge, but the opposite can happen, especially if the flight is long. If you keep drinking on the flight, you’ll end up drunk, and that won’t make the flight any easier, especially if the anxiety manages to break through the buzz.

Caffeine should also be avoided because it naturally promotes anxiety. It does this by increasing your heart rate, which leads to a more panicked feeling overall.

Do your research

Statistics about plane crashes and fatalities may not be what you want to research before getting on a flight, but knowing how small the chances are of something horrible happening may just help put your mind at ease. Since there is a one in 11 million chance of a plane crash happening, repeating the stats to yourself prior to boarding might actually ease flight anxiety.

Figure out where the fear comes from

The best way to find out why you’re afraid of flying is knowing exactly where the fear is coming from.

If you had a bad experience, attributing the anxiety to that one instance could help you tell yourself that just because one experience was bad doesn’t mean they will all be.

If the fear is derived from seeing something bad happen on the news or in a movie, you can visualize and think about it accordingly.

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