10 Ways I Keep Calm When I’m Afraid To Fly

For my entire life, I have been afraid to fly. The technical term is aviophobia, and I definitely have it. I’ve flown many times in my life, and I’ve been scared every single time. Some flights have been better than others, but I always have “the fear.”

I try to avoid flying when I can, as I almost always prefer other types of transportation. However, sometimes it’s necessary in the modern world to get on a plane, no matter how loathsome it may seem. I’ve been in this situation many times, and over the years, I’ve developed a few ways to keep myself calm before and during air travel. They’re not always 100 percent effective (i.e., I still sometimes find myself panicking to varying degrees), but they help.

If you’re afraid to fly, try these ten things to keep calm next time you have to do it.

Practice breathing

Deep breathing is much more effective if you practice it on a regular basis. I have anxiety (in general, not just when I fly), and deep breathing throughout the day is one thing that helps me the most. If you have a flight coming up, start deep breathing practice now.

Whenever you can, direct your attention to taking long, slow, calming breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Make sure to get all the air out of your lungs at the end of a breath, and pause before starting a new breath. Take deep breaths before you go to sleep, and whenever you feel yourself getting wound up. When you get to the airport and board the plane, breathe. Breathe calmly and mindfully, even if you don’t feel calm. It helps.


Meditation is one practice that is absolutely essential to my serenity, both on the ground and in the air. As with deep breathing, it helps much more when you practice it regularly. Start today. Even five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening is enough to make a huge difference in your stress levels, and many other aspects of your health. Ten minutes, especially if you do it every day, is even better.

Bring something comforting

If there is an item of some sort that comforts you when you’re about to panic, bring it if you can. Some people may find it helpful to squeeze a small stone or marble in their palms. Others may find it helpful to bring a trinket that reminds them of a loved one. Whatever it is that comforts you, bring it if it’s at all practical. If not, you could perhaps take a photo of it with you.

Bring something distracting

If you’re afraid to fly, bring plenty of entertainment options to distract yourself.

Whatever activity you find to be engaging, bring that along. Bring multiple activities along if you can. Music, books, a sketchpad, a journal and handheld games are just a few of the many options you have. I, unfortunately, have motion sickness, so I can’t read during a flight, but reading at the airport helps to keep my mind off of the impending flight. I find music to be very helpful mid-flight, if the ride is calm and the plane noise isn’t too loud.

Always have water

If you’re prone to panic during a flight like I am, make sure you have a bottle of water with you. If I don’t have water when I start to get panicked, I’ll start convincing myself that I’m becoming dehydrated, which starts to make me feel dehydrated whether I am or not, and my panic becomes worse. Bring the water, even though you’ll have to fill a bottle or buy one after you get through security.

Decide what to do about the window

For me personally, I try to avoid looking out the window during a flight, unless it’s a very calm, sunny flight and the clouds outside are fluffy and tranquil. I find that looking out at this scene calms my panic just a bit. I can’t stand to look out of the window during takeoff. If you’re afraid of the height aspect of flying specifically, you may want to get an aisle seat and avoid looking out there entirely. Make a plan beforehand for what you’d like to do about that tiny airplane window.

Try essential oils

Certain essential oils, including lavender, chamomile, frankincense and rose, may help to ease your anxiety and put you in a more tranquil state of mind. I like to use lavender. It’s recommended to dilute essential oils, so before your flight, mix a couple drops of your oil of choice with about half a teaspoon of organic coconut oil in a small travel container. Before your flight, rub a bit of the oil on your pressure points, such as your temples and wrists. Try putting some on the back of your neck, as well.

Additionally, you can rub a bit of the essential oil between your palms, bring your palms to your face (don’t get any in your eyes or nose!), then breathe the scent deeply for a good dose of calming aromatherapy.

Try kava root

If you’re afraid to fly, kava root can calm the mind.

Taking a supplement of high-quality kava root (also called kava kava) from a source you trust may help to lower your panic significantly, as this root has been linked to calming the body and mind and promoting restful sleep. I’ve used this myself, and I do feel a difference with it — it helps relieve the tension. However, speak to your doctor before going this route, to make sure it’s safe for your individual health.

Also, no alcohol if you take the kava; the combination may be harmful to your liver.

If it helps, track the plane

Some planes, the ones that have a little video monitor on the backs of the seats, have a function that allows you to track the plane’s path in real time while you fly. I’ve found this to be soothing in the past — seeing myself get closer and closer to my destination makes me feel better. If your plane is equipped with this, give it a try if you think it may help you.

Focus on getting through takeoff and landing

Takeoff and landing are when most plane crashes happen. Of course, your chances of being in a crash are incredibly low, but for those of us with aviophobia, the odds don’t help much. However, it does help me to focus on takeoff and landing, and allow myself to zone out as much as I can for the rest of the flight.

During takeoff, I close my eyes, sit back and breathe deeply until the seatbelt sign turns off. During landing, I like to look out of the window just a bit, now and then, because it comforts me to see the plane getting closer to the ground. I like landing much better than takeoff. If it helps you, breathe through these phases and focus on your distractions during the rest of the flight.

Fellow aviophobes: any other tips to making flying less frightening? Please share!

— Tanya Mead

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