How to Survive Long Flights With Anxiety

There are so many reasons why being on a plane for several hours can be a dreadful experience. Some people cannot stand the boredom it brings, while others have a hard time putting up with unfavorable conditions, especially in economy class.

In some instances, anxiety is the reason why taking a long haul flight a terrible experience.

Whether it’s the usual airplane jitters or anxiety disorder that you have, worry not as there are so many steps that may be taken to help make the hours your spend thousands of feet from a ground-level more bearable.

So how do you survive long flights with anxiety? Keeping calm is definitely the way to go on the long haul flights. If you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, you may also ask your doctor to prescribe you with a pill, such as Xanax, to have your nerves soothed in no time.

Fret not because you’re not the only one who has a fear of flying. A lot of people are also in a mental wreck not only before the plane takes off but also while it is in its cruising altitude.

The good news is that there’s never a shortage of solutions for such a common problem. No matter if you would like to deal with your anxiety naturally or by popping a pill in your mouth, keep on reading this article.

Below we will talk about some of the best ways to considerably reduce or completely eliminate your nervousness.

Fear of Flying Can be Due to Many Different Things

According to mental health experts, around 20% to 30% of the general population feels uneasy when flying.

It goes without saying that having anxiety when going from one point on the globe to the other via a plane ride is a widespread issue.

Most of the time, knowing that you’re not alone is enough to help you calm down a bit.

However, being familiar with the statistics won’t make that nervousness go away completely. There are simply so many things why a lot of people are terrified to fly.

Fear of heights

There is no denying that for some people knowing that they are several feet in the air is a nightmarish matter.

If you are one of them, then no one can blame you for having cold sweats and a rapid heart rate when boarding or while on an airplane.

Do take note that it’s not just flying that may scare you if you have a fear of heights, but also riding roller coasters, being on the rooftop of a skyscraper, mountain climbing, sky diving, and others.


Put simply, claustrophobia is the irrational or extreme fear of being in confined spaces.

Because the cabin of an airplane is definitely a confined space, it’s not unlikely for the claustrophobic in you to make your flight a nasty experience.

Just like the fear of heights, having claustrophobia may leave you feeling anxious when you find yourself in any other confined space, and not just in an airplane cabin.

Bad experience

Did you have a terrible flying experience in the past? Then it doesn’t really come as a big surprise why you fear flying.

As a matter of fact, you may have panic attacks before or during your flight, and it’s commonly associated with either post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or panic disorder.

Worry not if you have PTSD or panic disorder because it can be treated, and the first step that you should take is to consult a psychiatrist.

Terrifying news

Plane crash adds to anxiety
Plane crash (credit Pixabay)

Perhaps time and again, you have heard from a friend or read on the web horror stories that have something to do with flying.

Being struck by lightning, engines catching on fire, snakes, and zombies in the cargo area — these and so many other stories can definitely leave you worrying when flying.

It’s important to note that flying is actually much safer than driving a car or riding a bus or cab.

First time to fly

Certainly, your heart may end up pounding in your chest, and the palms of your hands may wind up sweating like crazy if it’s your first time to step foot on a plane and fly.

Well, there’s a first time for everything, and it’s completely normal for you to feel anxious when you have never flown before. Fear, however, may not be the only emotional or mental state that you may have, but also excitement.

The amount or intensity of your anxiety may also depend on a few other factors. One of those is the number of hours spent on an airplane.

Needless to say, you may feel more nervous when you are about to take a long haul flight.

What’s a long haul flight? Here’s an informative article that we did about it: What’s Considered a Long Flight

Anxiety and Sleep: Here’s the Link Between the Two

Most people on long flights prefer to spend most of their time catching some shut-eye. This is a great way to get rid of boredom.

More importantly, taking a trip to dreamland allows passengers to bounce back from stress and fatigue associated with traveling, and thus making them look and feel refreshed after their flight.

Unfortunately, falling asleep on a plane is virtually impossible if you are feeling anxious.

Nothing can cause your nervous system to be stimulated more than thinking about stuff such as crashing in a jungle filled with vicious predators or the middle of an ocean that can take rescuers days to reach.

As a general rule of thumb, the more terrified you feel while on a plane, the more difficult it is for you to sleep just like a toddler.

The problem with not catching some sleep while flying for several hours is that it can actually wreak havoc on your mind. We all know that someone who’s deprived of sleep tends to feel irritable.

Other than irritability, anxiety is also a common outcome of sleep deprivation.

Needless to say, you may wind up feeling more nervous on an airplane if you are unable to get some sleep while flying or even the night before you fly.

It’s therefore important for you to spend some of your time sleeping in your airplane seat if you want to feel less anxious.

One of the best ways to do that is to pop something in your mouth that promotes sleep. You can choose between a prescription sleeping pill and something that’s available over-the-counter (OTC).

There are also pills that are not really considered as sleeping pills but may be taken anyway as they can help you to have get some sleep — drowsiness is one of their common side effects.

Some of the most popular examples of those are antihistamines or drugs that are intended for dealing with the many signs and symptoms of allergies.

However, it’s important to note that the intake of a sleeping pill is only recommended if you are flying for several hours. Also, going for something that won’t leave you snoring for a really long time is highly suggested.

We did a nice article about short-acting sleeping pills for flying.

How to Reduce Anxiety and Fall Asleep

Worry not if you are not fond of relying on sleeping pills just to be able to spend some time in dreamland while waiting for the plane to land.

That’s because there are so many other things that you may do to help relax your mind and thus make it so much easier for you to enjoy some much-needed sleep.

Here are some really effective tips on how to fall asleep on a plane naturally:

Listen to soothing music

Put on a pair of earphones and listen to soothing music or guided meditation if you would like to calm down and ultimately sleep.

If you have the budget, opt for high-quality earphones with active noise-canceling as they also help to reduce external noise significantly.

Take a whiff of essential oils

According to scientists, some essential oils are actually very good for encouraging relaxation and sleep. Some of those that you may count on are chamomile, lavender, clary sage, rose, and ylang-ylang essential oils.

By the way, aside from promoting sleep, these essential oils also help to deal with anxiety.

Drink chamomile tea

Other than being in the form of essential oil, you may also count on chamomile for relaxation as tea. The moment you feel anxious, kindly ask the flight attendant to bring you a cup of chamomile tea.

But just to be safe, it’s a much better idea for you to place a couple of chamomile tea bags in your carry-on luggage before flying.

Stay away from coffee

Definitely, you should avoid having a cup of coffee. That’s because its caffeine content will only stimulate your nervous system, thus leaving you more anxious.

Other beverages with caffeine, such as soft drinks and energy drinks, should be dodged as well if you want to feel relaxed mentally and physically.

Use a pillow and blanket

Nothing can encourage you to relax and also sleep more than feeling comfy. That is why in your carry-on luggage, you should have a small pillow and travel blanket.

Even if you’re in economy class, having the right tools can make it feel like you’re traveling in business or first class.

Pick the right seat

Before you fly, pick the best seat for you. Going for one that’s next to the aisle is recommended if you are claustrophobic or have a fear of heights.

Consider choosing a seat that’s as far away from the engine as possible so that you may be able to focus on the audio that you’re listening to.

There are so many other things that can be done in order to calm down and also fall asleep on a plane. Can you think of other effective ones? Feel free to post them in the comments section below!

Relaxing is Everything If You Feel Anxious on a Plane

Did you know that the more you focus on your anxious thoughts, the more nervous you will become? It’s due to this why when flying, and you are feeling uneasy, the best thing for you to do is to calm down.

Making your anxiety go away is, of course, easier said than done. This is true most, especially if you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, which is a very common form of mental illness.

According to mental health experts, in the US alone, more than 40 million adults are suffering from an anxiety disorder — many more are yet to be diagnosed. The good news is that this widespread mental health-related matter is highly treatable.

Whether it is anxiety disorder or just the usual jitters associated with being on an airplane that you have, one thing remains true: relaxing is a step that you should take.

Failure to do so will only lead to the appearance of a bunch of mental and physical symptoms, most of which can actually make the anxious feeling you have worse!

For instance, it’s likely for you to take rapid and shallow breaths when you are feeling nervous while thousands of feet from the ground.

This is what’s referred to as hyperventilation in the medical world, and it’s something that you should try to avoid doing at all costs.

That’s because hyperventilating can leave you with some really scary sensations that can make you feel even more anxious, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Feeling faint
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Palpitations
  • Mouth dryness

The problem with encountering the various terrifying symptoms mentioned above is that it may leave you thinking that you have a heart attack.

Certainly, nothing can be more frightening than the thought that you need immediate medical attention, but you can’t because you’re on a plane!

Here’s what’s very much likely to happen if you believe that it’s a heart attack that you are experiencing: you will feel more anxious, and the symptoms will intensify.

As you can see, something as simple as having some anxious thoughts when flying can cause much bigger issues that can make your flight a more horrible experience.

And if you end up having a full-blown panic attack because of it, you can rest assured that the rest of the passengers will also be affected.

As a matter of fact, you may cause those who are already having the anxiety to feel even more anxious because of your panic attack. So, in a nutshell, it’s a good idea for you to do your best to calm down while on an airplane.

Before we forget, one more very common result of hyperventilating is having pins and needles sensations, which may be experienced in various parts of your body.

It’s not uncommon for it to affect your fingers, hands, toes, and feet. Sometimes you may also have it in your face, such as the nose, cheeks, and lips.

By taking slow deep breaths, you can put an end to your hyperventilation and also deal with the scary symptoms associated with it.

By the way, pins and needles sensation can happen not only due to hyperventilation but also because of being seated for a long period of time.

You may encounter it most, especially once the plane has landed, and you have left your seat.

Final Thoughts on How to Survive Long Flights With Anxiety

A lot of people feel uneasy when flying. If you’re one of them, it can be easier to attain the much-needed peace of mind to know that you are not alone.

On an airplane, many of the passengers are also likely to be feeling anxious, hoping for the time to fly by really quickly so that they could get off the plane.

When taking a long haul flight, it’s a good idea for you to be prepared. One of the ways to keep your nervousness to a minimum is booking the right seat for you.

Taking an aisle seat is recommended if you are terrified of confined spaces or heights. If possible, pick one that can keep you from hearing the noise the engine makes.

For some people, however, going for a window seat is much better, as the beautiful view of the sky can help to keep their minds preoccupied.

It’s also important to mind what you put in your carry-on luggage. Check that you have a nice pair of headphones, a small pillow, a travel blanket, and calming essential oils.

Feel free to bring with you anything that can help you feel nicer, such as an entertaining pocketbook or some magazines.

Bringing with you your prescription or OTC sleeping pills is a definite must if you feel that taking them is the only way for you to be able to relax as well as get some sleep.

Clearly, it is possible to deal with anxiety while you’re on a plane. What’s more, it can be done in a number of ways.

No matter the approach you prefer, just always bear in mind that your flight will go very smoothly, and it won’t take long before the plane lands.

Have a safe and happy flight!

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Reed Harris

Reed is a traveler and blogger. He's planning to visit all states in the USA. He's been in 31 states so far.

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