Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious
Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Breathing Exercises to Calm Nerves at 30,000 Feet
Turbulence can be one of the most nerve-wracking parts of air travel, especially for anxious fliers. Suddenly getting jostled around in your seat tens of thousands of feet above the ground is enough to send anyone's anxiety skyrocketing. While there's no way to completely avoid turbulence, there are techniques you can use to help calm yourself when it strikes. One of the most effective methods is practicing breathing exercises.
Conscious, controlled breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation and digestion. This can counteract the fight-or-flight adrenaline response that makes turbulence feel so distressing. There are a few simple breathing exercises you can do discreetly in your seat to ease anxiety during bumpy skies.
Try square breathing—inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and repeat. You can also breathe in slowly through your nose and deeply exhale through pursed lips. Place one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest, making sure the hand on your abdomen rises and falls with each breath, not just your chest.
Another good technique is imagining your happy place. Close your eyes, take long slow breaths, and visualize somewhere that brings you joy and peace. Picture every detail—the sights, sounds, smells. This sends signals to your brain that you're safe and calm.
If you start feeling claustrophobic, try segment breathing. mentally divide the cabin into segments and focus on breathing within just your segment rather than the whole plane. Or simply turn your thoughts inward and concentrate fully on your breath moving in and out.
Many anxious travelers swear by alternate nostril breathing as well. Use your thumb and ring finger to gently close one nostril while inhaling through the open nostril. Switch sides while exhaling. Do this for a few rounds. The focused breathing brings relaxation.
What else is in this post?
- Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Breathing Exercises to Calm Nerves at 30,000 Feet
- Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Pack Items That Soothe and Distract Your Mind
- Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Request a Tour of the Plane to Understand Turbulence
- Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Weight the Pros and Cons of Medication Before Flying
- Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Listen to Relaxing Music Through Noise-Cancelling Headphones
- Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Focus on Positive Thoughts and Happy Memories
- Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Chat with Nearby Passengers to Feel Less Alone
- Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Plan Recovery Stops During Layovers to Recharge
- Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Bring Comforting Snacks and Drinks From Home
Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Pack Items That Soothe and Distract Your Mind
When turbulence hits, having items on hand that soothe and distract your mind can make a big difference in staying calm. While you can’t anticipate every trigger for anxiety while flying, you can plan ahead by packing a few comfort items that help take your mind off worrying thoughts when things get bumpy in the air.
One of the best items to pack is a lavender sachet. According to studies, simply inhaling the scent of lavender has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Tuck a small sachet into your purse or pocket so you can discreetly take some calming whiffs when nerves strike mid-flight. The pleasant aroma helps promote relaxation. You can also apply a little lavender essential oil to your wrists or temples.
Packing noise-canceling headphones is another great idea. Listening to soothing music, a meditation app, or an audiobook can transport you out of anxious thoughts by immersing you into the story or lyrics. The noise cancellation also helps block out any worrisome plane sounds. Create a playlist of your favorite calming songs or download a new meditation track to practice breathing exercises while listening. Trekz Air bone-conduction headphones let you listen while still hearing instructions from the crew.
Don’t forget about in-flight entertainment. Download movies, e-books, games, and playlists onto your phone or tablet so you have plenty of engrossing options if WiFi fails. Having distractions on hand helps divert focus away from stressful sensations when encountering choppy air. Treat yourself to a couple new games or that book you’ve been wanting to read. Entertainment apps like Netflix allow you to download before your flight too.
Another item that can help soothe nerves is a stress ball. Simply giving your hands something to keep busy with distracts the mind and provides a productive way to channel nervous energy. Lightly squeezing a stress ball or manipulating it in your hands engages touch receptors that send calming signals while refocusing your attention.
Travel-sized coloring books and colored pencils are another engaging option for anxious flyers. The repetitive motion of coloring in a design prompts a relaxed, meditative state. It’s hard to stay anxious when you’re fully immersed in the creative process. Choose an intricate adult coloring book or opt for simple mandala designs.
Packing familiar comforting items from home can also ease a nervous mind while flying. This might mean a favorite pillow from your bed, photos of loved ones, a cozy blanket—anything that makes you feel safe and secure. Having these personal items on hand provides a little piece of home to help manage anxiety in unfamiliar surroundings.
Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Request a Tour of the Plane to Understand Turbulence
For anxious fliers, comprehending more about how planes endure turbulence can diminish uneasiness when it happens. While investigating airplane mechanics likely won't kill all nerves, it furnishes nervous travelers with knowledge on how flying through rough air really works. One approach to more readily understand turbulence is to request a tour of the plane before your flight.
Most carriers will permit pre-flight tours if inquired. Tell the airline you're an anxious flyer and a walkthrough would truly assist with comforting your nerves. There's no guarantee, however crew are generally ready to oblige if staffing and timing permit. You'll likely just access the cabin zone, yet that gives a decent perspective on precisely how solid these metal birds truly are.
See how the seats interface with the floor. Feel how thick the windows are. Watch how the wings are appended—flexible however solid. Understanding the strong engineering intended to endure turbulence assists counterbalance nervous feelings with it happens. Observe cautiously while crews get things ready for departure as well.
Seeing staff nonchalantly setting up the galley and doing pre-flight checks—just as different travelers calmly boarding with little worry—gives an inconspicuous feeling of solace that you're in great hands. Hearing the captain'supdates over the intercom can likewise be reassuring.
Travelers who've had the pre-flight experience say it eases a portion of the alarm of the obscure. Peering inside the real plane to perceive how it's assembled demystifies flying and reinforces trust in the brawny metal shell. You become more acquainted with where you'll be sitting, instead of leaving it totally to the creative mind.
Obviously a visit doesn't kill the chance of hitting rough skies. However having that base of comprehension assists counterbalance tension when it happens. Those who've strolled through beforehand portray an expanded feeling of control and readiness once airborne.
Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Weight the Pros and Cons of Medication Before Flying
Anti-anxiety meds like Valium or Xanax seem like an easy fix. The tranquilizing effects make flying less distressing. However, side effects like drowsiness or slowed reflexes often hit hard at altitude. Impacts get amplified by dehydration and cabin pressure. Suddenly one pill puts you out cold for the whole flight.
Melissa once eagerly downed a Xanax before takeoff. Within 30 minutes she was slurring words and needed help to the bathroom. She woke up after landing with zero recollection of the flight. While relieved she didn't freak out, losing 6 hours was unnerving. Other anxious fliers describe similar zombie-like sedation. It provided temporary escape but also vulnerability.
Medications also react differently for each person. Amy's doctor prescribed generic Xanax as a mild relaxant for flights. However, the same low dose that relaxed friends completely knocked Amy out. She missed her connection after oversleeping aboard. Planning a long layover as a buffer helped Amy avoid a repeat incident. Still, she was unprepared for such strong effects.
Even with a doctor's approval, reactions aloft are unpredictable. Changes in cabin pressure and circulation affect how medication absorbs. Best intentions can lead to adverse reactions if not cautious. One slip-up can ruin a whole trip.
Of course, everyone reacts differently. Some anxious fliers take a prescription anti-anxiety pill without issue. Starting with a lower dosage while not alone is advisable for first-timers though. Have a travel companion who knows your itinerary and meds in case issues arise.
There are also non-pill alternatives for relaxation. Try natural supplements like valerian root or CBD before pharmaceuticals. OTC meds like Dramamine offer lighter dosage options. Don't overlook other relaxation methods too - like meditation, music, and breathing exercises. Weigh all options before assuming pills are the sole solution.
Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Listen to Relaxing Music Through Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Listening to relaxing music through noise-cancelling headphones can transport anxious flyers to a calmer state of mind during turbulence or other in-flight stressors. The ability to immerse in soothing sounds while blocking out worrisome noises provides both distraction and comfort when nerves strike.
Kelly swears by having her Bose QuietComfort headphones anytime she flies. She starts playing soft piano instrumentals from her downloaded playlists as soon as the seatbelt sign goes on. The familiar songs combined with the underlying drone of the plane engines relax her immediately. She is able to divert focus away from any tense sensations and into the music.
The noise cancellation feature allows her to further escape by muting unpleasant plane sounds. The engines fade away along with babies crying, passengers chatting, and carts rattling down the aisle. Kelly feels enveloped in a cocoon of calming acoustics. She also packs an airline adapter so she can use the in-flight entertainment system to access more music options if needed.
Other anxious travelers like Alex prefer downloading meditation and mindfulness apps that guide them through breathing techniques and visualization exercises. Alex relies on the Headspace app's SOS meditation sessions for turbulence as the soothing narrator's voice talks him through rocky patches. The noise cancellation makes it easier to follow the narrator's cues without distraction.
Travelers recommend testing out different music and app options beforehand to discover which ambient sounds instill relaxation. Create playlists tailored for in-flight stress like Chill Flight Vibes or Turbulence Chill Out. Sarah curates playlists of nature sounds and spa music which immediately puts her nervous system at ease.
While music is ideal for calming the mind, audiobooks and podcasts can also provide positive distraction. The storytelling immerses listeners into an imaginative world that makes it easier to ignore anxiety. Cecelia always has an engrossing thriller bookmarked to help occupy her mind if the plane hits rough air. She finds the plot twists shift her focus away from overthinking the turbulence.
Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Focus on Positive Thoughts and Happy Memories
When turbulence hits, it's natural for your thoughts to spiral in a negative direction. Focusing on frightening "what-if" scenarios only amps up anxiety. That's why actively redirecting your mind to positive thoughts and happy memories can be so helpful for staying calm. This mental technique puts you in a peaceful state that makes it easier to ride out bumpy skies.
Stephanie was once a very fearful flyer who dreaded turbulence. She would obsess over all the alarming possibilities whenever the plane shook - like plummeting from the sky or the wings snapping off. This mental loop made her a shaking, sweaty mess at the slightest hint of choppy air. She never felt in control during flights because her mind went straight to the worst.
On a therapist's advice, she started "flipping the script" in her head whenever she began fixating on frightening turbulence thoughts. Stephanie made a conscious choice to shift from "this plane will crash!" to memories of her recent beach vacation whenever anxiety struck. Focusing fully on details like the warmth of the sun on her skin, the sound of crashing waves, and the smell of sunscreen instantly moved her mind somewhere peaceful.
Over several flights, this purposeful thought redirection allowed Stephanie to ride out turbulence in a calmer state. Knowing she had the power to consciously choose her mental path provided confidence she lacked before. She felt more in control of her anxieties instead of controlled by them.
Marcus took a slightly different approach by focusing on joyful future plans during bumpy flights. As the plane bounced around, he'd think excitedly about an upcoming trip or special event instead of dwelling on what might go wrong. Imagining the fun he'd have sightseeing with friends or the delicious dinner for an anniversary redirected his mind somewhere positive.
The key for anxious travelers is having these go-to happy thoughts planned out before turbulence strikes. Make a list of treasured memories that spark joy - a meaningful relationship, career achievement, favorite family tradition, etc. When nerves kick in, purposefully shift your focus to items on that list. Avoid fixating on the turbulence itself and where fearful thoughts lead. It takes practice to reframe your reaction, but gets easier over time.
Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Chat with Nearby Passengers to Feel Less Alone
Feeling isolated and alone during turbulence can worsen anxiety. But striking up friendly chats with nearby passengers helps create a sense of community that eases stress. Human connection distracted by lively conversation diminishes fearful focus on bumpy sensations.
Madison dreaded the impending turbulence as the captain announced choppy skies ahead. Gripping her armrests, she braced for a painful minutes-long rollercoaster ride in isolated silence. But the friendly older woman next to her struck up a conversation as the bumps began. What started with small talk about their respective hometowns soon shifted to swapping family stories and travel tales. Madison became so engrossed she almost forgot about the turbulence. Having a companion to chat with made her feel less alone. The plane seemed smaller and safer.
Peter had a similar revelation when the 20-something student on his left began enthusiastically telling him about her semester abroad after the plane jolted violently. He felt initial annoyance at the interruption but gradual comfort listening to her travel adventures. It normalized the situation. Peter's realization that others weren't panicking either helped settle his nerves. The student's steady stream of upbeat chatter kept his mind occupied. He didn't feel so alone anymore in a plane full of strangers.
Of course, some seatmates aren't up for turbulence talk. Emily was met with awkward silence after attempting to break the ice with the businessman beside her as the plane shook. Taking the hint, she didn't push further conversation but the quick effort still eased anxiety. His lack of visible alarm reassured her somewhat. Starting exchanges allows introverts to talk if willing. Fellow chatterbox extroverts will eagerly engage.
Don't limit yourself to neighbors either. A quick joke to the passenger across the aisle or light banter with crew rolling a cart by helps too. Smiling and nodding at others also creates connection. The simple act of exchanging friendly eye contact combats isolation. You're in this together.
Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Plan Recovery Stops During Layovers to Recharge
Layovers are usually seen as an inconvenience on long trips. But for anxious travelers, strategically planning longer layovers can provide valuable recovery time between flights. The chance to fully recharge in a calm environment helps manage anxiety boarding the next plane.
Madison always used to book trips with the shortest layovers possible. The rushing between planes amped up her anxiety so she was already a nervous wreck by the time she boarded her next flight. But missing a connection due to a delay forced her to spend an unexpected 5 hour layover in a hub city. She finally slowed down, found a quiet lounge space, meditated, snacked, and refreshed. It was a game changer.
When booking her next multi-leg trip, Madison deliberately planned a 4 hour rest stop in a midway city. She reserved a day pass for an airline club lounge so she had a peaceful space to unwind in. Laying on a chaise with noise cancelling headphones and an eye mask allowed her to fully recharge both mentally and physically. Boarding the second plane, Madison felt renewed instead of drained.
Marcus purposely routes trips through a city he loves that has direct service to his final destination. The 6 hour layover gives him time to ride the transit into town for a decadent sit down lunch - one of his favorite stress relievers. Refueling with a proper meal provides both physical and mental stamina to power through the second leg. He returns to the airport refreshed and ready to tackle the final flight.
Even shorter layovers of 2-3 hours can provide anxiety relief between flights. Look for airports with yoga rooms, nature trails, massage chairs, dog parks or other relaxing amenities. Or book a lounge day pass to access chill away spaces. Retreat to a quiet area, journal thoughts, listen to music, or meditate. Stepping away restores mental clarity.
Pack items to maximize layover rejuvenation too. Lisa swears by tucking an eye mask, ear plugs, neck pillow, and foot rest in her carry on. She transforms any corner into a relaxation pod for quick catnaps and meditation sessions during layovers. Staying in comfy travel clothes like joggers or slip-on shoes adds to the restorative experience too.
Turbulence Ahead? How to Keep Your Cool When Flying Makes You Anxious - Bring Comforting Snacks and Drinks From Home
Having familiar snacks and drinks from home can bring immense comfort to anxious fliers when turbulence hits or nerves strike during flight. The items provide a taste of normalcy amid a stressful situation, which helps reduce anxiety. They also give hands and tastebuds something pleasantly distracting to focus on instead of worrying thoughts.
Melanie always packs her favorite banana nut muffins and chamomile tea bags to soothe her when flights get bumpy. The ritual of slowly sipping chamomile tea—with honey the way she enjoys it at home—brings instant familiarity. Enjoying a muffin baked from her mom's recipe floods her senses with childhood nostalgia. She feels wrapped in a warm hug, transporting her to happier place. The turbulence fades to background noise.
Other anxious fliers like James rely on salty, crunchy snacks from home when nerves strike in the air. James finds the loud crunch of chips or pretzels helps drown out unpleasant plane noises triggering anxiety. The crispy snacks also give his hands and mouth something to do besides anxiously fidgeting. And the saltiness grounds him, cutting through anxiety-induced nausea. He keeps single-serve bags in his carry-on to avoid judgment for eating crinkle-loud snacks beside seatmates.
Italian cook Nadia can't fly without her homemade biscotti to nibble when she gets jittery. Taking bites of the almond-laced cookies baked from her grandmother's recipe reminds her of carefree childhood visits. The familiar crunch and nutty flavor provide an instant sense of home and family that makes the plane feel less scary. She also packs single-serve wine bottles to sip, which provides a comforting anti-anxiety effect.
Anxious vegans like Marie plan ahead by packing soothing plant-based snacks. Having the right foods on hand helps Marie avoid hanger-fueled breakdowns when anxious. Protein-rich nuts, seeds, and plant jerky sustain energy to manage stress. And sweet dried fruits or chocolate-like snacks provide quick hits of blood sugar to stabilize mood swings. Marie feels reassured knowing she has snacks suited to her diet needs.
Staying hydrated with sufficient fluids from home also keeps anxiety at bay. Fliers like Lauren pack empty water bottles to refill past security. Sipping from her favorite metallic bottle keeps her grounded. Others tote single-serve electrolyte packets to add to water, which aids hydration at altitude. And warm beverages like light herbal teas, instant ginger lemon drinks, or broths provide in-flight comfort too.