Overcoming anxiety when flying

This week I am in Palo Alto, CA to learn some new science techniques from a lab at Stanford. It is the longest I’ve been away from Candy Cane, and my 1st time staying in an AirBnB. I get really bad anxiety when flying, and even more when I have to navigate a new place.

The more I fly, the more I learn about how to manage my flight anxiety.

1. Wear comfortable layers

Since I don’t have a lot of experience flying, I used to think that people dressed business casual to fly. It took a few flights to realize that the fastest you get through security, the better; airplanes are usually cold; and navigating new airports can be exhausting. I always wear flats/slip-on shoes, comfortable jeans with a loose shirt, a large scarf, and an over-sized cardigan. I can’t tell you how much time I save going through security with slip-on shoes, and how warm/cool I can feel just by taking off/putting on a scarf and cardigan. Knowing that I have this control has really helped with the airport anxiety!

2. Plan to arrive 3 hours before boarding time

Everyone says arrive 2 hours before, but the truth is that I plan for 3. I live in Chicago, so you never know if the CTA will be slow, if a train isn’t riding that day, or if they moved a train station 1-2 miles down the road. Ahem, that happened to me this past Sunday! I walked over a mile with a 40 pound suitcase at 6 in the morning! The good thing is that I planned to be 3 hours early, so I still had time to check my bag and wait through security. Had I known more about Lyft, I would’ve caught a Lyft that morning. Planning hours in advance has decreased my day-of-flight anxiety tons!

3. Bring entertainment for the entire duration of the flight

I’ve tried reading, listening to music, watching movies, even sleeping during the flight. What really helps my flight anxiety is watching movies. I usually ride American Airlines, and they now offer in-flight entertainment per passenger. If I bring my own headphones, I can watch and listen to a variety of movies, and then switch over to see the location of the plane, how long we have left, and how high we are in the air. On this last flight the headphone jack was broken, but I was still able to watch a movie with closed captions turned on. Having these distractions in-flight has really helped with my flight anxiety!

Pro-tip! You can download movies from Netflix onto your laptop/tablet and watch that instead! American Airlines offers outlets for charging so you don’t have to worry about a low battery.

4. Know where to sit on the plane to avoid motion sickness

I used to always sit by the window. It gave a great view, but it was horrible for my anxiety! I am afraid of heights, and would look out the window the second there was turbulence. I also used to sit in the back of the plane, which was horrible for motion sickness. Now, I try to sit over the wing of the plane towards the aisle. The minute there is turbulence I look straight forward, breathe, and avoid looking out of the window. Asking for some ginger ale also helps!

5. Know what airlines offer flight status updates

I cannot stress how much I enjoy flying with American Airlines. I particularly enjoy the touch screen tablets placed in front of each seat. I can see the flight details, watch a movie, listen to music, or even read a book. They offer outlets for charging your device, and you can start to save up air miles. I’ve flown with other airlines, and although some are just as amazing as AA , some (not going to name any names!) could be a lot better. In the end, it’s all about experience and how pleasant the ride is.

How do you overcome flight anxiety?

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