Sarah Yates

I moved from Minnesota to California almost 7 years ago, and I have flown back and forth quite a bit since then. I also occasionally travel for work or fun a bit, so needless to say—I fly quite a bit.

But guess what? My anxiety creeps up big time on flights. If you know me, you know that I have struggled with anxiety for some time now and although it’s generally better, it hits pretty hard on flights. But last summer, I was determined to find ways to combat my anxiety on airplanes. Here’s what worked:

  1. Know that the plane isn’t going down. This one is so obvious, but as an anxious person, it was often hard to believe. It actually took finding a pilot on TikTok who talked about this for me to believe it to be true. I now think about turbulence as just bumps in the road. Do I feel anxious when I hit a pothole while driving? No. So neither should I feel anxious when a plane is having a bit of turbulence (which is quite funny because as I am writing this, I am on a plane, experiencing turbulence).
  2. You can get up and walk around. Sometimes my anxiety makes me feel trapped—like I can’t get out. Things like movie theaters and church pews really stress me out. And while you can’t get out of the airplane, you sure can walk up and down when the seat belt sign is turned off. Get up, stretch, walk to the back of the plane and back. You’ve got this.
  3. Sleep is your BFF. If you’re like me and can sleep on planes, then you’re the lucky kind. I know we are rare, but if you can sleep on your flight, I highly recommend it. I sleep a little bit less the night before (typically because I am packing) and try to book the early flight to ensure I can sleep well on the plane. I plug my headphones into my phone, turn on one of my downloaded Spotify playlists and try to fall asleep before take off. Typically I will wake up around when they are doing their first round of service, about 45 minutes into the flight.
  4. Listen to your normal music. I love creating Spotify playlists, so I recommend making quite a few, downloading them, and then listening to them in your everyday life before you fly. This way, your mind will associate the music with normal experiences and happy thoughts. Here’s what not to do—create an anxiety playlist and listen to that (unless that’s a tried and true way for you to calm down). For example, I have a playlist I listen to when I am feeling overwhelmed and extremely anxious. There is no way I am going to listen to that when I am feeling anxious on a plane. 

No matter how anxious you may be before your flight, it doesn’t have to consume you. Try out my tips, I promise it’s worth a shot. Have you tried any other tips? Drop ‘em below!

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Southern California wedding photographer and storyteller for everyone and anyone in love.

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