How to Avoid Stress and Discomfort During a Flight

Those who experience stress and discomfort during a flight experience unnecessary discomfort. This is because air travel is actually the safest of all! In fact, the chances of an accident are less than those of traveling by car. The best thing to do is be informed. Don't feed your negative thoughts about flying.
How to Avoid Stress and Discomfort During a Flight

Last update: 11 April, 2021

Many people experience stress and discomfort during a flight. However, this is because their minds fool them most of the time. This happens mainly to those who aren’t used to flying, but there are also cases of frequent flyers with this problem.

Stress and discomfort during a flight can occur in varying degrees. Some people simply experience fear and don’t feel at ease until they’re on the ground again. For others, the issue is much more complex and they come to feel as if they’re going through hell.

These types of cases must be taken seriously because those affected are truly in pain when during a flight. The good news is there are ways to overcome this kind of stress and discomfort. In fact, they’re quite effective and can help overcome the problem.

Stress and discomfort on the plane

It’s normal to be a little nervous when boarding a plane since humans are terrestrial beings and feel much more comfortable on solid ground. It’s also normal for us to feel uneasy during turbulence.

The challenges begin when this fear is too pronounced and leads to more severe symptoms. Sweating hands, a feeling of restlessness, tense muscles, agitated breathing, and constant sighing are signs that we’re afraid.

Stress and discomfort during a flight can also reach higher levels and lead to even more intense symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety and uneasiness
  • Tachycardia
  • Choking sensation
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

In these cases, we’re no longer talking about fear, but a phobia.

A man with a headache.
Symptoms can be intense during a flight and become a phobia.

Why does it occur?

Stress and discomfort during a flight can be due to a variety of factors. Most commonly, it’s the result of a lack of information and misleading beliefs. The first has to do with the lack of knowledge of how airplanes work and of the procedures and formalities pilots must carry out to fly.

The combination of incomprehensible stimuli generates nervousness during boarding and throughout the flight. There are a series of warning signs and events that may cause alarm, without there really being any reason for it. The order to stay in seats or to fasten seat belts, as well as the fading of lights and others, can confuse people.

However, misconceptions are because plane crashes get a lot of coverage in the news. Thus, people tend to think that flying is synonymous with tragedy. Likewise, there are many movies about the subject, and help feed these fears.

There’s also the case of people who experience anxiety about everything and for whom flying is just one more thing on their list. Likewise, some have actually had negative experiences during a flight and get to relive those fears when they’re on an airplane.

An airplane in the sky.
The fear of flying is fed by misconceptions about airplanes and accidents.

Ways to avoid anxiety during a flight

The key to avoiding stress and discomfort during a flight is to prepare for the trip well in advance. You’re going to start the experience with altered nerves, even before boarding the plane, if you’re still finishing packing, or arranging the details shortly before you fly. Thus, it’s best to have everything ready at least one or two days before the trip.

Getting informed is another way to reduce nervousness. Make a mental picture of everything that’s going to happen before and during the flight. This assumes that you know and understand the routine protocols, which include check-ins, screenings, boarding safety measures, etc.

The information should also cover topics such as the degree of safety of air transport. For instance, you may not know it but it’s easier to be struck by lightning than to die in a plane crash.

Likewise, remember that you’re more likely to win the lottery than to be involved in an aerial accident. Also, those percentages are greatly reduced when you fly with a commercial airline.

Finally, try to eat a light meal beforehand and skip caffeine and alcohol. Take a book or some other form of entertainment to keep your mind busy during the flight. Also, try to travel with others and don’t be afraid to express who you feel. This is because fears often dissipate when you say them out loud.

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  • Rivera, B. O., Botella Arbona, C., & Quero Castellano, S. (2001). Tratamiento mediante realidad virtual para la fobia a volar: un estudio de caso. Clinical and Health, 12(3), 391-404.