Flight Anxiety. Don’t Let It Get You Down

June 13, 2019
written by:Claire Brandon, M.D.

While my travels are over, for now, I am excited to keep sharing what I learned while I was away. Travel can be exciting for many people, but others are distressed and at times held back from travel due to their flight anxiety, up to 70% of people, in fact!

While we might not know for sure what makes the difference, when I travel I like to try to troubleshoot for my patients who struggle with flight anxiety. These are a few tricks I find to help decrease flight anxiety.

Target your automatic thoughts of catastrophization. Statistics tell us that flying on a commercial airline is probably the safest way to travel. This is because the level of monitoring done on airplanes far exceeds that of what we monitor about cars and trains.

Another interesting statistic is that if you were in the unfortunate event of being in an airplane accident, it is likely that you would actually survive based on the most likely accidents that occur.

How To Deal with Flight Anxiety

What happens in the air though, even knowing all of these statistics? One issues is the lack of feeling grounded and in control. As humans we like to feel as much control as possible, being on an airplane, you have to give up that control. One idea is to try to take back control of your body with a few different exercises that might help.

  1. Write your name in cursive with your non-dominant hand over and over. 
  2. Utilize progressive muscle contraction to distract your body from the feeling of turbulence or take off. This might be squeezing your hands to make fists, or squeezing your legs and glutes repeatedly.
  3. Make conversation with the person next to you. You’d be amazed at who you meet on airplanes, and if 70% of people statistically have some level of flight anxiety, you are likely to find someone that is interested in being distracted as well.
  4. Listen to music that makes you happy and channel the confidence that artist has while you listen. 

Let me know if you enjoyed it on my Instagram page!

**This blog is not to be treated as medical advice, please discuss with your physician if you have any concerns.**

Claire Brandon, M.D.

Dr. Brandon is a dual board-certified psychiatrist in both adult psychiatry and consultation-liaison psychiatry (treatment of psychiatric illness in medically ill adults). She completed her residency and fellowship training at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and did a second fellowship in public psychiatry at New York University in New York City

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