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5 Easy Travel Anxiety Tips and Tricks For Coping With a Fear of Flying

Traveling. The word in itself gives me incredibly ANXIOUS chills. 

Naturally, there are plenty of happy emotions to associate with the word "travel". 

However, due to my constant state of living with a generalized anxiety disorder, travel is listed as something that triggers my deepest symptoms. As soon as I start to plan for a trip my mind begins to cycle, like a mouse on a wheel. 

I overthink the entire process from start to finish, even before I check in my bag at the airport. 

"Will my plane take off on time?"
"How long will the security line be once I get to the airport?"
"Will there be awful turbulence on the plane?"

These are just a few of the many, many questions that run through my brain while I consider booking what would be a normal vacation to most people. 

My fear of flying only started to hit me when I reached high school. It was at that point in time when I did not yet discover my diagnosed anxiety disorder. 

I feel like if I only understood the varying reasons as to WHY I was scared to fly back then would I have had the courage to figure out successful coping methods earlier on in my life. 

Believe me when I say I deeply regret not traveling enough because I let my fears take over my brain. 

The fears I have about traveling can consume my thoughts so badly that I often experience a multitude of extra uncomfortable symptoms that are not even related to my usual anxiety but are solely linked to my fears of flying. FABBBBULOUSS, right? Just what I want, more reasons to worry!

I'm now 24 years old. I have yet to cross off even a 1/4 of the places I desire to visit in the world. Heck, I've yet to fly alone on a plane! However, I've come a long way since my days of panic attacks while riding the airport trams or feeling trapped inside my middle seat while nervously crunching on Southwest peanuts.

So, how do I continue to push myself to fly more? 

What are my signature tips and tricks? 

Inside this post, you'll discover my exact routine of conquering my fear of flying, one plane at a time!

1. Buy The Gum. Buy The Book. Buy ANYTHING YOU WANT.

Here's my first tip: have major anxiety about a flight? Create a little budget for yourself to have a major ~treat yo self~ moment while at the airport. 

I'm talking about YOU. BUYING. WHATEVER. YOU. NEED. to face the X hour long plane ride ahead of you. 

That motivational book you constantly see other people reading on Instagram? Buy it. 

The Starbucks drink you buy whenever you have a final and need to mentally prepare yourself for the ultimate game time? Get ready to suck it down. 

Take this opportunity to fuel yourself up (lol) for the plane ride by rewarding your body with some treats to boost your happy endorphins. 

I try to set aside at least $20.00 before my next flight to treat myself to some gum and a shiny new magazine to entertain myself with while enjoying the plane ride. This act also makes you feel better about the plane because you have some distractions in your bag waiting for you to take them out as soon as you get to your seat.  

2. Create the Ultimate Music Playlist

I don't think I have been on a flight where I didn't listen to Spotify for the entire journey. Listening to music instantly calms you down! It works wonders on me and one of the first things I toss into my carryon purse is my favorite headphones. I'm still saving up for some advanced noise-canceling headphones because I've heard those work absolute wonders!

Music can be so positively influential on your entire plane ride experience. 

Often I mix things up and listen to some Drake as we take off (personally I HATEEE taking off so this is my high-stress point and therefore I listen to a JAM to distract me!). While in the air I will change the tempo according to my mood. If I want to sleep I will usually change it to something instrumental and relaxing. 

3. Dress Comfortably

Another important factor involved in any travel itinerary is the outfit you wear on the plane. 

Of course, there are plenty of sites that tell you to dress nicely for the flight, but when you spend your time overthinking the process of flying so much, I feel like you can dress down to ease yourself into a peaceful state of mind. 

Flying shouldn't feel like a fashion show. 

Wearing leggings and fuzzy socks can be just the right amount of support that you need to take deeper breaths and fall asleep in your seat. 

If you think wearing a sweatshirt and jeans will help you reach your optimal comfort level than go for it. Before you head out the door for your flight, you have to consider all of the ways you can make your body less responsive to anxiety. 

Clothing can definitely play a role in causing you more anxiety. Wearing your favorite pieces can positively reinforce the trip you are about to take, too. Once you are in your go-to pieces you will feel connected with physical products that remind you of home. 

4. Talk To Your Neighbor

When I visited my best friend in West Palm Beach two years ago, I took the Amtrak train from Tampa down the coast. I went alone and it was quite an adventure! Along the way, I was seated next to a woman and in the first part of the three-hour journey I kept my headphones in and we didn't make any conversation for the first 30 minutes of the ride. 

We started to make a few stops and the woman tapped my shoulder to ask me a question about the snacks available on the train. From there we quickly started to chat about my life and her life and the reasons why we were taking the train the day. 

It was great to talk to her because although I was hiding behind my headphones and phone I was nervous about the train ride! She told me she had traveled on the Amtrak once before from New York down to Miami and I couldn't believe it. 

It depends on the flight, but if the person next to you indicates that he or she is interested in the small talk it could be helpful to make light conversation to pass the time. Of course, it's your flight and you can control the situation between the two or three of you! 

Talking to others around me also shows me that even when I'm stuck in my head and think I'm flying alone, that in fact there are hundreds of people around me who may feel the same exact way! When you talk to other people you can find yourself releasing built-up tension that you experienced along the way to get onto the plane. 

Changing your negative thoughts is also another factor in calming your travel worries. Instead of pondering major "catastrophes" that most anxiety puts us through 

On my last flight to New York, I actually panicked pretty badly because of some bad weather and I ended up sitting in the back of the plane flagging down a flight attendant. She was SO kind to me and even suggested a book on how to deal with flying anxiety, too. 

5. When All Else Fails: Breathe It Out

I'm not going to lie - sometimes these four other coping methods do not work. 

The travel situations you find yourself in will never look the same, which is ultimately another reason why people feel constant anxiety every time they travel someplace new. I mean, I've visited my family in New York for the last 20-something years of my life and I know that EXACT flight path by heart and I still freak out every time we take off. 

After visiting with my therapist and understanding some new CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) problem-solving techniques I am now more equipped with the knowledge to control my breathing because it's the most underused superpower. 

Get ready for a FREE therapy lesson, WOO!

Slowing down your breathing will send oxygen back to your brain instantaneously. I had no clue how important breathing can be to calm the rest of your body. When you have anxiety, you tend to rely on the upper lungs instead of the lower chest. 

Here is how to train your body to breathe: 

1. Place one hand on the upper chest and the other hand on your lower chest (stomach). 

2. Breathe in slowly and naturally. 

3. As you exhale, pay close attention to your stomach. 

4. See if you can keep your hand placed on your upper chest still as the hand on your stomach slowly expands. 

5. This type of breathing will give you a chance to focus your attention on your lower chest for much deeper breathes. 

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