I only had four therapy sessions to address my fear, but it did wonders for me to understand and bring clarity to the origin of my negative thoughts about airplanes. I used to love the adrenaline rush of take-off and the exciting anticipation of landing somewhere new. I love traveling so much that in the last three years, I even moved to two different countries. Unfortunately, four years ago, I began to hesitate buying flight tickets in fear that I was choosing “the wrong plane.” The one that was doomed to fall. But as a globe-trotter, I am committed to learning how to manage my anxiety before and during flights. I am the one choosing these adventures, after all!
In my first therapy session, I discovered that though I have flown multiple times to go on vacations and backpacking trips, I have also taken long flights related to grief and loss. One clear example being the six-hour flight I took to see my father in his last days.
Since my fears began, I developed techniques to keep me calm and collected on plane rides. And although therapy has probably been the best of all these methods, I have to say the small self-care actions during flights have allowed me to feel empowered, in control of my emotions, and hopeful that I have what it takes to keep myself peaceful when presented with something that scares me.
Without further ado, here are five in-flight techniques that have allowed me to continue taking off to distant lands.
5 Essential In-Flight Self-Care Strategies
1. Valerian Root
This is an herb that grows in Europe, some parts of Asia and North America. The root is used to create a natural medicine for insomnia. It is also used for anxiety and psychological stress. You can find Valerian Root at the supermarket near the Vitamin C shelf. In Mexico City, I buy it at the homeopathic stores. Depending on my level of anxiety, I usually take Valerian Root a couple of nights before I fly out. This helps me sleep soundly. I also take it the morning of my flight or right before my flight. I know people that get actual prescribed sleeping pills when they fly, but that is not for me. I just want to help my body reach a state of relaxation without missing out on the adventure.
Side note: Please talk to your doctor if you have questions about taking Valerian Root or any other sleeping pills.
2. Lavender Oil
Once I am on my chair waiting for take-off, I take a few minutes to massage my neck and shoulders with lavender oil. I apply some on my temples, behind the ears and on my wrists. If necessary, I reapply during flight. Lavender is another natural way to help your body relax. It is known for reducing stress, inducing sleep and it’s even linked to reducing depression and PTSD. This is a must-have in my carry-on!
3. No Coffee
While living in Spain, I got hooked on espresso. I not only drink a cup of coffee every morning for the energy boost but also the taste. I have an Italian pot I bring with me everywhere. When I have a flight to catch, my body is already charged with energy, I do not need coffee to make it more alert. I drink green tea instead to avoid getting a headache from caffeine withdrawal. During the flight, I keep my water bottle handy as flying can make you more dehydrated. If you are on a long flight, I recommend getting a Sleepy Time tea or a Stress Relief tea so you can get a better rest on that small airplane chair.
I found a YouTube channel for yoga and meditation that got me hooked on these practices. On a recent one-hour flight from Guadalajara to Mexico City, I meditated the whole time. I personally enjoy using the Boho Beautiful Life meditations, but you can choose your own. During that specific flight, we experienced high turbulence as we approached Mexico City. Having reached a deep meditative state by that point, my breathing was slow and deep, and my muscles were not tense at all. This helped me stay tranquil. My body remained in a state of peace, which somehow did not allow my mind to lose itself in the fear.
If being locked up on some plane miles from the ground sends an emergency signal running through your body, all I have to say is: THINK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE! Seriously. Forget your typical “Live in the Moment” advice or the common “Stay Present” phrase. Do Not Be Present. This is the time to get completely lost in a daydream. In conjunction with my meditations, I remind myself of specific happy things that have happened in my life, and I make myself vividly remember the details of that scene. Last time I was on a flight, I thought of a dance performance I was part of in Japan a few years ago. I got so into the memory that I was only partly present in the flight. When turbulence came, it felt like I was only half experiencing it. I was literally and figuratively with my head in the clouds.
I do think fear can be useful. It can show us when something is wrong; it can save our lives. I can let fear help me out every now and then. But I cannot let it run me. How many dreams do we hesitate to go after because we are afraid of what might go wrong? How many dreams do we actually go after because we are excited for all that could go right?! I want one of those scenarios to overpower the other. Can you guess which?
Here I am again, getting ready for another flight. I am ready to see more of the world. I am ready to be the fearless person I always aspired to be. I am ready to feel peaceful, to move past negative thoughts, and to rely on my inner strength to create the life I want.
How do you manage travel anxiety?
Also by Vanessa: How I Became A Woman Globetrotter & Learned To Embrace My Own Path
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!