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15 Easy Coping Strategies For a Fear of Flying

Do you feel your heart speed up the moment you step into an airport? Does every bout of turbulence send you into a silent panic? You're not alone — studies suggest that 40 percent of people have a fear of flying. This anxiety can ruin vacations and cause months of low-level stress. Intellectually, you know the plane isn't going to crash, but that knowledge does little to quell the wave of fear that accompanies every flight.

If you're a nervous flier, it's helpful to have an arsenal of coping strategies. That way, you can try a variety of methods to ease your mind and travel with confidence.

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01 Sit on the aisle

The feeling of being trapped can exacerbate the fear of flying. An aisle seat can help; the open space gives you a mental escape route. Once the fasten-seatbelt sign switches off, you're free to roam around the cabin or walk to the bathroom without inconveniencing your seatmates. Even if you stay seated, it's surprisingly relaxing to know that you can get up if the need arises.

Senior man with beard sitting in airplane aisle seat using a phone AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

02 Choose flights strategically

If turbulence is a concern for you, choose flights carefully. Start by booking morning departures. Early fights tend to be smoother because the ground temperature is cooler. As the sun rises and the ground warms up, it sends heated air up into the atmosphere. The warm air mixes with the cooler high-altitude air, creating bumpy currents.

Direct flights are another great option; they minimize the time you spend in the airport and in the air, not to mention stressful takeoffs and landings. After you pick a flight, select a seat over the wing or close to the front of the plane. Since the wings deliver balance and stability, you'll feel fewer bumps.

An airplane flies high above the clouds with the rising sun on the horizon Egorych / Getty Images

03 Stay busy and distracted

The more time you have to think about a flight, the worse your anxiety will be. The solution? Don't give yourself time to dwell. Stay busy on the day of departure. Review a packing checklist, make sure everything in the house is clean, and decide where you want to park. Chat with your travel companions; deep conversations are a fantastic distraction. If you're flying solo, pop in your earbuds and listen to a book or podcast.

Two female friends talking as they walk through an airport with luggage AzmanL / Getty Images

04 Treat yourself to a lounge pass

Airport terminals are loud, chaotic places. If the extra stimulation adds to your anxiety, a lounge pass is a worthwhile investment. For about $50 to $75, you'll be able to wait for your flight in a quiet, soothing environment. Sip a glass of wine and indulge in a selection of snacks until it's time to go to the gate.

Do your research — some lounges provide massages, nap rooms, and showers for an extra relaxing experience. Choose a lounge you're excited about; the anticipation will displace some of your worry.

Female traveler sitting in an airport lounge overlooking the terminal Edwin Tan / Getty Images

05 Review the facts

Anxiety fills your mind with worst-case scenarios. Counteract irrational fears by running through a list of facts. Review airline crash statistics, and look up how many people have died on commercial airplanes in the past 50 years.

It sounds strange, but you might also find it soothing to read about situations where airplanes lost an engine and still landed safely. Every time you come across a statistic or story that makes you feel better, add it to the notes app on your phone. That way, you can pull it up whenever you feel panic rising during a flight.

Man sitting in an airplane seat and looking at a smartphone izusek / Getty Images

06 Learn about turbulence

A bumpy flight can skyrocket your stress level. Before you fly, try educating yourself about the actual risk that turbulence poses. (Spoiler: it's perfectly safe.) Read up on airplane design, and learn how each component is engineered to handle rough air. The more you know, the less likely you are to fear the unknown.

For example, the wings on commercial jets can bend to almost 90 degrees without breaking — even if it flexes, it won't snap off.

Airplane wing with an island and ocean far below Tyler Tomasek / Getty Images

07 Use a turbulence-prediction app

Do you feel calmer when a pilot warns you about turbulence in advance? It makes sense — knowing what to expect brings peace of mind. Apps like SkyGuru, SOAR, and Turbcast provide the same service: they predict turbulence and tell you why it's happening, in real-time. The simple scientific explanations can help break through the fog of fear.

woman checking phone during flight RossHelen / Getty Images

08 Interrupt your anxiety

For many people, anxiety happens automatically. A tiny, intrusive idea, such as "What if the plane goes down?" can quickly become a storm of stressful thoughts. If that sounds familiar, try interrupting the pattern.

Every time you start worrying about your flight, say to yourself, "No. I'm not thinking about that." This concrete, conscious command interrupts the flow of fearful, negative thoughts. Repeat it as often as necessary to prevent yourself from spiraling.

Nervous woman sitting in an airplane seat by the window globalmoments / Getty Images

09 Recite helpful mantras

Once you stop negative thoughts, replace them with positive mantras. If you're stressed before the flight, say something like, "I am safe and I am calm." If the flight is rough, try, "It's just bumps on the road." Repeat these phrases in your mind, focusing intently on the words. At the same time, force yourself to breathe slowly and deeply to keep your heart rate in check.

Woman in headphones closing her eyes on an airplane EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER / Getty Images

10 Take a therapeutic or medicinal approach

If you need to travel frequently for work or personal reasons, the fear of flying can be debilitating. When the worry and anxiety start to affect your everyday life, it's time to seek professional help.

How do you know that your anxiety is out of control? Red flags include losing sleep, having panic attacks, or canceling trips at the last minute. Your doctor may recommend therapy or anti-anxiety medication.

woman taking pills AsiaVision / Getty Images

11 Understanding aerophobia

Fear of flying woman in plane sick with stress headache and motion sickness or airsickness. travel with airplane with aerophobia is afraid to fly, sitting on seat of plane.

Aerophobia, or the fear of flying, isn't just about being up in the air; it's a complex phobia that intertwines various fears like heights, enclosed spaces, or loss of control. Understanding the roots of this fear is the first step towards managing it. Just like recognizing the ingredients in a complex dish, knowing what contributes to your fear can make it less overwhelming and more manageable.

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12 Seeking professional help

Visit to a psychologist. A man sits on a couch and talks to a psychotherapist. The patient is depressed, apathetic and stressed from problems in his personal life. Help of a psychologist.

For those whose fear of flying borders on a phobia, professional help can be a game-changer. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), offered by therapists specializing in anxiety disorders, can provide tailored strategies to dismantle your fears. Think of it as getting a personalized navigation system to guide you through the turbulence of your anxiety.

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13 Virtual reality exposure therapy

Businessman wearing virtual reality, augmented reality black glasses. Young man working on grey laptop, with cup of coffee. Inside the room, can be home or living room.

Embracing technology, Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) offers a safe, controlled environment to face your fear of flying. It's like a flight simulator for your anxiety, allowing you to experience the sensations of flying without leaving the ground. This method gradually desensitizes your fear, making real flights less daunting.

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14 Recognizing and managing anticipatory anxiety

Nervous african woman breathing calming down relieving headache or managing stress, black girl feeling stressed self-soothing massaging temples exhaling isolated on white grey studio blank

The anxiety that builds up before a flight can often be more intense than the flight itself. Recognizing this anticipatory anxiety is crucial. It's like spotting storm clouds before they burst – once you see them, you can start using your coping strategies, whether it's deep breathing or a focus exercise, to keep the anxiety from overshadowing your journey.

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15 Separating fear from actual danger

Nervous african woman breathing calming down relieving headache or managing stress, black girl feeling stressed self-soothing massaging temples exhaling isolated on white grey studio blank

Understanding the difference between fear and danger is vital. While fear is an emotional response, danger is a real threat. Remind yourself that flying is one of the safest modes of transport. It's like distinguishing between the sound of thunder and a real storm; one is just noise, while the other poses a real risk.

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