Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying
Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Breathe Deeply Through Takeoff and Turbulence
Turbulence and takeoff can be the most stressful parts of flying for many anxious travelers. When the plane starts rumbling and shaking, it's easy to tense up and panic. But deep breathing exercises can be an extremely effective way to counteract the body's fight-or-flight response during turbulence.
Focus on taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to keep your inhales and exhales even in length, breathing from your diaphragm. Place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest, feeling your belly expand with each inhale.
As you breathe deeply, relax the muscles in your face, neck, shoulders, and the rest of your body. Don't clench or contract any muscles. Imagine the tension melting away as you exhale.
You can also try grounding techniques as you breathe. Look out the window if you can, or focus on the back of the seat in front of you. Feel your feet flat on the floor and visualize roots growing from your feet into the floor of the plane, grounding you.
Listen to the white noise of the plane and find rhythms in the engine sounds to focus on. Or put on headphones and listen to calm music. As you breathe deeply, tell yourself that the turbulence is just the airplane riding air currents, and visualize the pilot navigating smoothly.
Some find repeating positive mantras helpful, like "I am safe" or "This plane is strong." Others find counting breaths keeps their mind focused. Breathe in slowly for a count of four, hold for four, exhale for six, and repeat.
If possible, reach out and hold the hand of your travel companion. Having a trusted person to anchor you can make a big difference. Make eye contact and breathe together.
What else is in this post?
- Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Breathe Deeply Through Takeoff and Turbulence
- Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Focus on the Destination, Not the Journey
- Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Pack Familiar Comfort Items in Your Carry-On
- Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Request a Window Seat for Distraction
- Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Listen to Calming Music During the Flight
- Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Learn Techniques to Relax Your Body and Mind
Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Focus on the Destination, Not the Journey
When turbulence hits, it's natural to become hyper-focused on the plane itself. Every bump and rumble seems like an impending disaster. But shifting your focus to the destination can help calm the mind. Imagine arriving safely at your final stop, walking off the plane, and experiencing the sights, sounds, and sensations of your vacation spot or family visit.
Picture checking into your hotel, dropping your bags, and heading straight for that first incredible meal you've been craving for months. Envision walking on the beach, hiking through lush forests, or strolling down city streets taking in new cultures. Let your mind wander through museum galleries, music venues, cafes - whatever awaits at your destination.
Focus on the specifics. What will you see first? Where will you go, and what will you do there? Imagine not just arriving, but living in that place once the flight is over. Forget about the journey and immerse your mind completely in the destination.
Frequent traveler James always dreads flights, especially takeoff. But he's found envisioning his destinations helps tremendously. "As soon as we start accelerating down the runway, I close my eyes and think about the first sip of wine I'll have when I arrive in Napa. I imagine walking between the vineyards and picturing the rolling hills filled with vines," he says.
Yvette hates turbulence, but thinking of her vacation plans keeps her calm. "When we hit bad turbulence, I pull up my camera roll on my phone and look through all the photos I've taken on previous trips to Costa Rica. I imagine myself back there, walking rainforest trails, hearing monkeys and birds. It really soothes me."
Of course, you don't need an exotic locale to focus your mind on. Just picturing quality time with loved ones can help. Karen flies often to see her young grandchildren. During stressful flights she thinks about "arriving to see their smiling faces waiting at the airport. I picture us baking cookies together, reading bedtime stories, playing dress-up - anything we might do during my visit."
Even imagining mundane daily activities in a new place can help shift focus. Elijah moved cross-country for his new job and still gets anxious when flying back to visit friends. "I just pretend I'm back there going to get coffee at my favorite cafe downtown, or grabbing tacos and catching up on the latest gossip with old coworkers."
Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Pack Familiar Comfort Items in Your Carry-On
For anxious fliers, surrounding yourself with familiar comfort items can provide a sense of security when nerves strike. Since regulations restrict liquids and dangerous objects, focus on packing lightweight keepsakes, clothing, entertainment, and snacks from home.
Having your own cozy travel pillow, blanket, headphones, and slippers can make even an uncomfortable red-eye flight feel a bit more like your bed at home. And don’t forget entertainment - download movies, ebooks, games, and playlists to your phone or tablet so you’re never without a distraction.
Snacks and beverages from home are TSA approved, so take advantage. For Holly, sipping her favorite turmeric tea helps her relax: “I just brew a big mug before I leave for the airport and pour it into a thermal canteen to take on board.” For kids, a special stuffed animal or beloved blanket from home can make all the difference.
Beyond physical objects, wearing comfortable familiar clothing helps ease anxiety too. Alex always flies in his ancient Stanford hoodie, claiming “It makes me feel secure, like I’m wrapped up in a big hug.” Packing fresh socks and undergarments can also provide a sense of comfort and normalcy at cruising altitude.
And don’t forget about sensory grounding tools like perfume, gum, mints, and essential oils. For Christine, a lavender-scented handkerchief is key: “I sniff it during takeoff and any turbulence. It really calms me.”
For chronic fliers, sometimes just having their own TSA-compliant versions of everyday items provides comfort. Jim packs his own metal utensils, portable water bottle, and small first aid kid. “I don’t know why, but just using all my own stuff makes me feel way better,” he says.
Beyond physical objects, some rely on photos of loved ones or keepsakes with emotional significance. Mia always packs the seashell necklace her grandfather gave her: “Holding it in my hand feels like he’s there with me.” And don’t underestimate the power of paper - having a real book to hold and turn pages can be more comforting than scrolling a tablet.
Marcus swears by one unusual item: “I know it’s weird, but I can’t fly without my lucky rabbit’s foot. Just having it my pocket and rubbing it with my fingers chills me out.” He’s flown over 100,000 miles with the same rabbit’s foot his grandfather gave him.
Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Request a Window Seat for Distraction
For anxious travelers, snagging a window seat can provide critical visual distraction and sensory input when nerves strike mid-flight. Gazing out at the clouds and ground below provides a welcome diversion from obsessively monitoring the plane’s every movement and sound. And focusing your eyes on the horizon helps counteract motion sickness from turbulence.
Of course, securing that coveted window seat isn’t always easy. The best strategy is booking as far in advance as possible and selecting your seat immediately. Checking in right at 24 hours pre-flight can also help before middle seats start filling up. Don’t hesitate to kindly ask fellow travelers if they’d swap an aisle for your middle - many are happy to oblige.
Once settled into your window seat, make the most of the view by peering down at the miniature world below. Pick out tiny towns, rivers, and cars crawling along highways. Use flight tracking apps to pinpoint your location. Gaze upward at passing clouds and look for shapes and patterns.
When anxiety creeps in from hits of turbulence, pressed your forehead against the window pane and watch the wing cutting through clouds and air pockets. See how it smoothly bounces back into position after each bump. Notice how the plane rights itself and the flaps adjust to wind gusts. This real-time reminder of the aircraft’s engineering can help assure nervous flyers.
And don’t forget to appreciate majestic views that only air travel affords. Sunrise and sunsets above the clouds are unparalleled from the sky. Crisscrossing the night sky among twinkling stars shifts perspective. Spot thunderstorms lighting up menacingly in the distance, safely out of the flight path.
Frequent business traveler Amanda swears by window seats for anxiety: “I just watch the world go by below. Seeing sights of actual geography calms me and takes my mind off the plane itself.”
Sophie actually feels more anxious in the aisle: “I need to see outside to feel oriented in space. Looking into the cabin makes me more aware of noises and movements.”
Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Listen to Calming Music During the Flight
Turbulence rattling your nerves? The engine droning too loudly? For anxious travelers, blocking out unpleasant sounds with headphones can make all the difference in staying calm during flight. Whether you prefer Mozart or Led Zeppelin, music's effects on mood are undeniable.
The key is curating playlists in advance specifically for air travel. Save songs that relax or uplift, avoiding jarring genres like heavy metal. Sarah, who used to panic during takeoff, swears by her "Flying Calm" playlist: "I make sure to download new age, classical, acoustic - anything with a generally chill vibe."
For parents like Trisha, kid-friendly audio books keep the whole family feeling relaxed: "I load up our tablets with stories to engage the kids during bumpy patches." With the distraction of tales like Peter Pan or Charlotte's Web, her son and daughter don't become nervous. They actually look forward to listening.
Beyond music and literature, others find calming sounds of nature do the trick. Standing fan Christopher says, "I have an hour long track of steady rainfall and distant thunder that takes me to my happy place." The familiar pitter-patter blocks out unsettling plane noises.
For chronic nail biter Amanda, binaural beats keep anxieties at bay: "I listen to these weird techno tracts that supposedly sync your brainwaves. I don't know if the science is legit, but focusing on them really distracts me from my fear of crashing." Those new to binaural beats should research first to understand the concept.
But headphones aren't one-size-fits-all. If silence keeps you calmer, invest in quality noise-canceling headphones. The sensation of muffling the engine roar and airplane creaks can provide huge relief. Pair with a sleep mask for sensory deprivation bonus points.
If headphones aren't an option, dig into magazines or e-books to immerse yourself in pages as the flight progresses. Or for chatty extroverts, the distraction of a seatmate conversation could keep worries at bay better than zoning into headphones. Know your personality.
Multi-taskers should try combining music with other relaxation tools. Visualizer Sydney listens to spa playlists while watching clouds out the window: "The music blocks out mechanical sounds that freak me out. Staring into endless sky keeps me hypnotized for hours."
When using music for anxiety, remember to avoid lyrics that could subconsciously stir worried thoughts. Stick to wordless tunes. Maddie learns this the hard way: "I made the mistake of playing Simon & Garfunkel's 'El Condor Pasa' with the lyric 'I'd rather be a hammer than a nail' - not helpful imagery!" Read lyrics in advance to catch subtle dark metaphors.
Turbulence Got You Spooked? 10 Soothing Strategies to Conquer Your Fear of Flying - Learn Techniques to Relax Your Body and Mind
When you feel your body tensing up during turbulence or takeoff, it can trigger panic and anxiety. Learning relaxation techniques to actively calm both mind and body can short-circuit the stress reaction. As your body relaxes, your mind will follow.
Progressive muscle relaxation is easy to practice discretely in your airplane seat. Start by tightly tensing each muscle group - feet, calves, thighs, hands, arms, abs, chest, neck - holding for 5-10 seconds. Then release, feeling the tension melt away. Rotate through your muscle groups, alternately tensing and relaxing. Focus on the sensation of looseness as muscles unwind.
Visualization is another powerful mind-body relaxation tactic. Picture yourself in a serene environment like a beach or forest clearing. Feel a warm ray of light melting tension from the top of your head down through your body. Mentally scan for any lingering tightness and envision sending it flowing down your legs and out through your feet.
Alternate nostril breathing triggers a profound calming response by balancing the right and left sides of your brain. Simply close your right nostril and inhale slowly through the left. Then close the left, exhaling through the right. Inhale right, exhale left. Repeat this pattern for several minutes. The focused breaths along with alternating sensation between nostrils has an incredibly soothing effect.
If you have experience with meditation, use the flight as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Focus completely on your breath, noting each inhale and exhale without judgment. Release distracting thoughts and bring your awareness back to your breathing rhythm. This trains your mind not to spiral into anxious thoughts.
Traveler James swears by a gratitude meditation: “I mentally list as many things as I can that I’m grateful for - friends, family, blessings. It totally shifts me out of anxious thinking.” Reframing your mindset cultivates calm.
Don’t underestimate the power of prayer and spiritual practice. Silently reciting meaningful verses or simply talking to a higher power can provide soothing reassurance. Traveler Christine repeats the Serenity Prayer during bouts of turbulence.
For chronic anxiety, ask your doctor about anti-anxiety medication for flights. Benzodiazepines like Xanax require a prescription but release calming chemicals in the brain. Melissa takes a low Xanax dose for tough air travel: “I time it so the effects kick in right as we start accelerating. It’s made a huge difference in keeping me relaxed.”
Biofeedback devices can promote relaxation through sound, vibration, or electrical stimulation. Wearable tech like the Apollo Neuro wristband uses gentle vibrations to encourage calm waves in the brain. Studies show it can significantly decrease stress. The effects are so subtle people nearby won’t even notice you’re using it.
Don’t forget the basics - sleep, hydration, healthy snacks and avoiding alcohol before flying all help reduce anxiety. Yoga teacher Amanda avoids in-flight panic attacks through self-care: “I focus on meditative rest the night before, and getting nutrients from fruit and nuts rather than salty foods and caffeine.”