Relax, Traveler: How to Calm Nerves Before Flying

how to calm nerves before flying

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Great news, everyone. As you all know, I’ve been dedicated to demolishing my flying fear. For the past year or so, I’ve especially tried to get a better handle on my anxiety so I can travel more and worry less.

Has it been easy? Uhhhh, no. I spent the entire time pressed against the window watching the plane’s wing sway in the air. But I’ve still made some progress! What progress, do you ask? I didn’t take any anti-anxiety medication on my recent flight to Marco Island!

Small steps, but meaningful ones.

Funnily enough, though, I still need to do a lot of work when it comes to feeling more relaxed before even boarding my plane. The scenarios I create inside my head are way worse than anything reality has conjured up so far (so far).

Apparently a lot of fearful flyers have the same problem as I do. For some people, the afternoon of an approaching flight is actually worse than the hours spent on the physical plane! Say whaaaaaaat?

While it’s reassuring to know I’m not alone, I think we all could use less stress in our daily lives and need to combat this anticipatory anxiety garbage. Stress kills, man.

Now I may not be an expert on how to calm nerves before flying, like I said it’s still a challenge for me, but I want to help fearful flyers (like myself) to experience the most seamless and easy flight possible for them. And that includes enjoying calm moments while you’re still away from the airport.



how to calm nerves before flying

Talk to a Trusted Family Member, Friend, Etc.

Don’t suffer in silence. Keeping a “stiff upper lip” is probably the worst course of action to take. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

Besides, your fear of flying isn’t stupid so don’t bottle your negative feelings inside you. Your social circle can transform into your own personal parade of cheerleaders – if you give them a chance!

Everyone knows I’m scared to fly. I’m not embarrassed about it either. If anything, speaking about my nervousness gives people the opportunity to reassure me. I find that knowing people believe in me and my inner strength helps a great deal.

However, I understand not everyone is as open as I am. I wear my heart on my sleeve. If you don’t want to share your fears with family or friends, then perhaps reach out to an online community on Facebook or Reddit. The anonymity of the internet is a bonus.

how to calm nerves before flying

Recognize and Address Anticipatory Anxiety.

I’ve already written a lot about anticipatory flight anxiety and ways you can confront this pesky challenge, but the concept fits perfectly into this post so I’ll also talk about it here.

Anticipatory anxiety takes place when a person experiences symptoms (such as distress, sweaty palms, stomachaches) just by thinking of an event. Like I said, anticipatory anxiety can feel even more threatening than the uneasiness on an actual airliner.

My best advice is to stop yourself whenever your brain drifts toward thoughts of turbulence, terrorist attacks, engine failure, or any other fantasy that attempts to distress you. Your future travels are precious. Don’t give anxiety the strength to taint them. I’ll say it one more time for emphasis:

Seriously, don’t give these negative thoughts any space in your head.

When unproductive and dark ideas come drifting your way, immediately occupy your time with a more productive activity like going to the gym or watching The Crown on Netflix.

how to calm nerves before flying

Do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Of course, this idea depends on your insurance, location, and finances. If you’re based in the United States, then know just how much of a hot mess our insurance system is, but I won’t rant about that topic here. Another complaint for another day.

However, if you can swing it, you may want to seek the help of a therapist to combat your flying fear prior to even stepping on board a plane. Your sessions could change your life. Besides who doesn’t want a safe space to talk about problems? I personally think we could all benefit from it.

In addition, your therapist may recommend cognitive behavioral theory, which is a great tool for managing any sort of anxiety disorder. You can change unhelpful thinking patterns under the guidance of a qualified professional. I hear it works very well.

how to calm nerves before flying

Listen to “Plane Noises” and Relax.

I think this suggestion has the potential to stir controversy among fearful flyers. But hear me out! If you decide listening to a plane’s engine not a good idea for you, then don’t do it. We’re all different.

However, something that helps me before a flight, is to lie in bed and close my eyes and listen to the plane’s engine. I find Youtube videos filmed on planes for this experiment.

As the video plays, I take deep breaths and relax in an attempt to associate the noise with peace rather than chaos. Furthermore I try to make my physical and mental states accustomed to the noises, to help reassure myself that these sounds are normal and don’t mean disaster is on the horizon.

If your anxiety can handle it, listening to these “live” flights is how to calm nerves before flying.

how to calm nerves before flying

Focus on Your Trip Instead of Your Flight.

Okay, I get it. You have a long flight looming ahead of you, and for those of us who get scared on planes, that’s not very cool. It’s scary.

However, remember you’re not flying for the sole purpose of going back and forth on a plane. Why would you do such a thing? No! You’re flying to have an amazing adventure in a new place where you’ll learn new things and meet new people.

Google images of beautiful buildings, delicious food, and epic natural beauty.

Watch videos with your destination in mind.

Sit on a cozy sofa and write a possible itinerary for your trip.

Ultimately remember the flight is only a tiny part of a longer journey. Don’t waste hours fretting when you’ll spend much more time exploring than sitting on a plane.

how to calm your nerves before flying

Fill Your Time with Unrelated Hobbies.

Sometimes you just need to give your brain a break from travel entirely.

I know, I know, I know. Impossible, right?

Travel is incredible, no doubt. However, it’s never a bad idea to keep yourself busy with other things if you’re dreading your next flight.

What other hobbies do you have? Do you paint? Do you like to bake? Do you enjoy dance classes? Throw yourself into some fun activities, preferably ones that require a lot of concentration. I bet the plane ride slips out of your head!

how to calm your nerves before flying

I hope you enjoyed my suggestions about how to calm nerves before flying. What are some ways you relax before taking a long flight? Share your ideas in the comments.

Be sure to check my “flying fear” tag for more resources. My “tips for fearful flyers” post is a good place to begin.

how to calm nerves before flying

2 thoughts on “Relax, Traveler: How to Calm Nerves Before Flying

  1. Clarissa says:

    So I’ve just read like 10 articles from your site and I just wanted to say thank you. I have a long international flight next week, I’m an extremely nervous flyer and I suffer from the same type of anxiety you do (fear of lost control). I hate the idea that I can’t control any part of the plane ride and that I have to leave it up to other people. It was so nice reading that someone else feels the same. While I’m still terrified for the plane, reading your blog posts made me feel a little better and I’m grateful.

  2. Jessica Esa says:

    This is great, I’ve gone from getting a bit nervous during take off to getting really bad anxiety and panic attacks and just not wanting to fly but I love traveling and I genuinely have to fly quite a bit so I have to just push through. If I’ve been traveling alone I’ve actually talked to the person next to me and said don’t worry if I act a bit strange, I’m a nervous flyer and I’ve actually made some really good friends who are also scared and we’ve chatted the whole flight away. So that can definitely help! I love all your advice though, definitely going to take it up and try and conquer this!

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