As many as 40 percent of all people experience some form of anxiety when it comes to flying. In fact, aviophobia — or the fear of flying — is classified as an actual anxiety disorder. Roughly 60 percent of sufferers purportedly experience generalized anxiety both leading up to a flight, as well as in the air, though they’re generally able to manage it easily enough on their own.
That said, there are a handful of triggers, turbulence chief among them, that can exacerbate that anxiety — true even among frequent fliers. Luckily, per a new report in The HuffPost, there are a number of coping methods, all tested and proven by experienced flight attendants.
It should come as a surprise to none that one of the first tips is to practice meditation and deep breathing. It feels tired as advice goes but really — when push comes to shove — buckling in and taking big, deep breaths is one of the best and most immediate things you can do to alleviate anxiety.
But, thankfully, there are a few other things that can help as well.
According to Doménica Jiménez, an Ecuador-based flight attendant with Eastern Airlines, you can always ask for a seat change. “At Eastern, if we notice a passenger is really nervous about their journey in the skies, and they’re seated toward the back, we offer to re-accommodate them to another part of the aircraft where the turbulence may feel lighter, like the front of the aircraft or near the wings,” she said.
Further, you can always just talk to the flight attendants and let them know you’re feeling anxious. “I’ve had customers come on the plane in tears,” said Kim Howard, an Avelo Airlines flight attendant based out of Connecticut. “I will whisper to them, ‘Are you an anxious flyer?’ They say, ‘Yes, I hate turbulence.’ I ask their seat number and will reassure them before takeoff and check on them throughout the flight.”
Howard also suggests that you listen for announcements as the captain typically provides insight into both the severity of the turbulence and how quickly they anticipate it will last.
And if your anxiety stems from fear of getting sick? Laura Nottingham, an Atlanta-based flight attendant with Delta Air Lines, recommends asking for ice. “Nothing cures nausea faster than an ice pack on the back of the neck,” she said.
Of course, at the end of the day, you just have to trust that know that planes are built, and the flight crew trained, to withstand turbulence. After all, there hasn’t been a fatal U.S. airline crash since 2009 and more than 8 billion passengers have flown in the years since.
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