How to Get Over In-Flight Anxiety (Without Gobbling Pills or Drinks)


With almost one in three American adults anxious about flying, the de-stress ritual of a pre-flight cocktail to in-flight glass of wine/quaaludes routine is coming to be everyone’s go-to for dealing with flying nerves. Now, ain’t nothing wrong with a little booze or a couple of clonazepam to calm your nerves (or maybe there definitely is?), but for longer flights, numbing your anxiety with copious amounts of alcohol and/or pills isn’t always the best travel plan, unless you plan on drunkenly finding your luggage and making out with a bag of Doritos while doing so.

Personally, my fear of flying doesn’t stem from fear of an airplane crash as much as it does from hating sitting in a tin can for hours on end next to someone who usually smells like a sandwich. Or maybe I’m the one who smells like a sandwich? IDK, something somewhere on all airplanes smells like an old turkey sandwich to me, and me and my nerves don’t like it, so I’ve tried my fair share of attempts to tackle in-flight anxiety.

Now, there’s a whole subcategory of self-help books dedicated to getting over your flying anxiety. (Brief aside: SELF-HELP FOR ANXIOUS PEOPLE WILL MAKE YOU MORE ANXIOUS. Unless those “How to Cure Your Anxiety” books are printed on Xanax paper, avoid that shit like it’s the anxiety plague. Sorry, everyone who makes money from selling anxiety books on Amazon.) In my experience, most of the advice is as effective, if not less effective, than rubbing a voodoo amulet and speaking in tongues in the bathroom before getting on the plane.

Here’s some of the strange stuff I’ve tried in the past:

1. Bring a photo of your destination and stare at it:

Did it work? If by “work” you mean “look like someone obsessed with Minneapolis, Minnesota on a plane,” then yes.

2. Pretend like you’re not on a plane:

This one has mixed results, and it depends on how into your in-flight entertainment you can get. That one flight that had “Save the Last Dance” as our in-flight movie was a breeze, because pretending to be Julia Stiles in an urban RomCom comes very easily to me, so I was imaging myself dancing in a sports bra/cargo pants combo for the entirety of the flight. That’s the opposite of feeling anxious.

3. Talk to your neighbor:

If your neighbor is a grandma or someone’s uncle from Georgia on Adderall, this can work. In fact, this can work very well. Several flights have begun with near panic attacks and ended with me explaining what “based” means to a very Midwestern grandma as she hands me a Werther’s Original.

4. Memorize very lyric of every song on a Lil Wayne album

Half of the time he’s so incomprehensible that you’ll become entirely focused on first translating his daunting body of work and ultimately become fixated on whether Lil Wayne leads a life of satire and is a physical embodiment of the state of modern society or if he… wait, I’m on a plane right now?

5. Embrace your anxiety

Don’t do this. The one time I decided to let my anxiety take hold, a small French man held my hand and said, “Just pretend she is a biiiiiiig bus” for three hours straight. It was, as they say, in French, trop terrible.

Okay, that’s me. You?

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