Top tips to beat your fear of flying

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The chances of a plane crashing are about one in 5.4 million, according to statistics from The Economist, and actually dying from a plane crash is one in 11 million. To put this into perspective, you have more chance of being struck by lightning or being attacked and killed by a shark.

Nevertheless, there are still many people who are terrified of flying and dread traveling anywhere by plane in case of turbulence, wheels squeaking, being in a crowded space or skidding on landing — and of course, crashing.

A fear of flying is also known as aviophobia and usually manifests itself in symptoms like panic, breathlessness, shallow breathing and a racing mind. It’s possible that aviophobia can develop from a bad experience but it can also be borne without a known cause.

Aside from going to the doctor to get some medication support or a referral to a psychological service, there are some simple things you can try to combat your fear of flying. Below are nutrition and lifestyle tips to help you conquer that panicked feeling as the plane pushes back.

Photo by Getty/martin-dm
Photo by Getty/martin-dm

Foods that might help

Salmon

Salmon contains vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids which may help regulate the chemical messengers — neurotransmitters — our brain releases which can calm and relax the mind. Omega-3 has also been researched to help the brain adapt to changes so may support anxiety symptoms.

Chamomile tea

This can be good for reducing anxiety because of its anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant content, meaning it helps fight damage in the body and protects cells.

Turmeric

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin which is known to support brain health and relieve anxiety. You can buy the spice and use in curries or stir-frys but it’s also available as a supplement.

Dark chocolate

While this is a mild stimulant, dark chocolate contains antioxidants that support brain function and is also rich in magnesium which is a key nutrient for the nervous system — so helps you relax. Eating dark chocolate is shown to increase serotonin (the happy hormone) and improve levels of stress hormones.

Natural yogurt

The live bacteria in yogurt can promote mental health and reduce anxiety by supporting levels of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Green tea

This contains L-theanine which is known to support brain health and anxiety. It’s also rich in antioxidants which can play a role in calming the brain. Both can support levels of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain.

Read more: Should I take supplements during air travel?

Things to avoid

Alcohol

Whilst you may think drinking is a good idea to calm your nerves, alcohol can in fact depress the nervous system, ultimately making anxiety worse. Alcohol changes the levels of the chemical messengers in the brain making you more anxious when it wears off.

Caffeine

It’s bad news for coffee lovers who have anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulate and stimulates the same fight or flight response that the fear of a plane crashing does. If you overdo caffeine before a flight it can trigger a panic attack so either switch to decaf or avoid for a few days before your flight.

Smoking

Like alcohol, smoking may give you the immediate feeling of calm but this is temporary as the underlying issue isn’t solved. Additionally, the effect of smoking before you check in to calm your nerves will wear off by the time you board. You’ll then have to deal with the cravings and withdrawal symptoms as well as your fear of flying.

Photo by Getty/Hoxton/Tom Merton)
Photo by Getty/Hoxton/Tom Merton)

Some lifestyle tips

Meditation

Practice meditation for 10 minutes per day every week before your flight and in the morning before.

Get plenty of ‘good’ sleep

Try your best to get your sleep hygiene right as this may play a role in your mood and anxiety. Try going to bed at the same time every night, sleep in a dark room and limit screen use before bed.

Exercise

Regular exercise can alleviate chronic anxiety and may also reduce panic attacks before your flight. Try to get 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily, especially in the morning before your flight.

Read more: Things you should before, during and after traveling to stay healthy

During the flight

Breathing exercises

Breathing helps regulate the body’s stress response and calm the mind. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for three and breathe out for a count of six. You can also try alternate nostril breathing — breathing in and out of one nostril at a time —  to help calm the nervous system.

Play soothing music

Find a playlist that calms you or makes you feel good and listen to it as you take your seat, even if you are feeling calm at that moment.

Eat right

Don’t drink caffeine or eat sugar before your flight — coffee, energy drinks and sugar are all stimulants and will make your anxiety worse.

Bottom line

Anxiety can be treated with medication and psychology support but and some foods and lifestyle interventions may support brain health and support anxiety symptoms when flying. But remember, it’s important to understand the root cause of anxiety rather than just living with the condition.

Featured image by Getty/SolStock

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.