Tips for Anxious Flyers

Flying is a really common fear and with the weather in Scotland being temperamental, being stuck in the UK for the rest of your life is not ideal. Anxiety can really limit your life and the only way to get control back is to face your fears. You may be absolutely terrified of flying, but you can break through this fear if you persist – I have done it myself. So in preparation of conquering your phobia of flying, here are some tips:

Fly from a quiet airport

This might seem strange, but the build up for the flight will probably be as nerve-wracking as the flight itself. To help you stay somewhat relaxed, choose to fly from a quiet airport at a quiet time; I flew from Prestwick in the early morning and the environment was much calmer than Glasgow Airport – this really comforted me.

Make a short journey first

I would definitely try making a shorter journey first. If you are extremely apprehensive you could try a domestic flight, for example, fly from Glasgow to Manchester and arrange to get the train back home. This approach will allow you to feel safer since you won’t be worried about the trip home and the flight will be extremely fast – you won’t be in an uncomfortable situation for very long at all.

Read about my experiences overcoming flight anxiety: I GOT OFF (AND ON) THE PLANE!

Graded Exposure Therapy

Flying is very expensive so it may be hard to fly often, but if you have the means, I would recommend Graded Exposure Therapy. This entails slowly building up to a goal, for example, you might be trying to make the flight to Florida, so you start by getting comfortable on domestic flights, then trips that are a little longer and then with dedication you will be in America.

Spend time in the airport

The airport itself may provoke anxiety, so if you go to the airport, for a coffee perhaps, until you no longer experience any nerves, then you will be much calmer on the day of your flight. This is also an example of graded exposure therapy.

Book an aisle seat

I used to love having a window seat to see everything from such a great distance, and I still do, however, feeling comfortable is much more important. Having an aisle seat gives you more space than a window seat, whilst allowing you to walk about the plane or going to the bathroom whenever you want (without annoying the person you’re sitting beside). This will allow you to feel like you have a lot more freedom.

Take headphones

I’m not one to use headphones often, as they hurt my ears, but on the last flight I was on I listened to music and even watched a movie and it distracted me beyond belief. Listening to music when I’m anxious is a tip I’m going to apply to more than just flying in the future!


Have entertainment

Distraction is my absolute favourite way of coping when I’m in a stressful situation, and take a lot of different things to keep you entertained incase you get bored with one. For example, take some books, magazines, apps, crosswords and movies. Sweets and chewing gum can also be very effective! I chew gum incessantly, it’s something I can distract myself with.

Be organised

Even if you’re a last-minute packer, or don’t usually have all your required documents sorted ahead of time and you’re okay with this – you need to be organised. Being organised ahead of time allows you to make sure you have everything you need and gives you time to solve any problems, because if you forget to print your boarding passes it will make your anxiety even worse! In addition, being ready lets you wake up in the morning and solely focus on relaxing (breathing exercises and doing anything that may help you calm down). If you’re experiencing high levels of anxiety it is very unlikely you are going to be able to pack a suitcase or get your travel documentation together, therefore, do it ahead of time.

Visit your doctor

There are anti-anxiety medications available for flying that your doctor can prescribe for short term use.

Travel with friends (if possible)

Having someone with you for emotional support makes a tremendous difference, so if you can, travel with someone else. A lot of airlines require you to book seats to assure you get seated beside who you are traveling with and I swear it’s worth the money – especially if you’re anxious. I am so glad I made my friends book seats, as holding my friend’s hand during take off and turbulence was so comforting.

These things really helped me to get through two flights and hopefully they will for you too. Don’t be afraid of being anxious on a flight because it’s so common that people understand, they will not think it’s strange! The air hostesses are also trained with how to deal with people in a panic and your call button is always above your seat. In addition, remember that there is a bathroom so if you want to, you can take two minutes to collect your thoughts or have some privacy. Flying may not be the most enjoyable thing in the world, but without it your life becomes limited so try your hardest to get comfortable with flying.


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