Dealing with flight anxiety as airlines continue to cancel all flights using the Boeing 737 Max

American Airlines announced a few days ago that they are canceling all flights on the Boeing 737 Max through August 19.  In addition, United has canceled flights on the 737 Max through July and Southwest has removed it from the flight schedule through early August. (Delta does not fly on the 737 Max.)

***If you have any flights booked on American, United, or Southwest make sure they weren’t among those canceled! Contact your airline’s support if you’re affected.***

Increased anxiety around flying

My parents retired last year, and for the past 10 months they’ve been having a blast traveling all over the US and beyond. During one of their short periods at home my mom and I started talking about the crash in Ethiopia. It turns out they had a personal connection through church to someone on the flight. Even though it was halfway around the world, it really hit home for them. Considering that they’ve been on more planes than I have this year, my mom was having some major anxiety about flying.

It’s normal and understandable to experience flight anxiety; in fact it’s extremely common. I’m surprised by how many frequent business travelers I know who consider themselves to be “nervous fliers.” Honestly, I’m in awe of how brave they are–it would be very difficult for me to do something that made me anxious for my job, week after week. 

I’ve been hearing from readers about their fears of flying more since the Boeing 737 Max crashes. Luckily, there are ways to lessen or minimize flight anxiety. Moving past it is definitely not easy, but for many of us if we want to work, see loved ones, or simply go on vacation, flying is something we have to do.

Here are some tips to manage:

Research. Even with the recent crashes, flying is still incredibly safe–including safer than driving. An interesting way to look at it: Flying is so safe that even if you fly every single day of your life, it will take you 19,000 years before you would die in a crash. That’s a long time!

Use an affirmation. Before you fly, choose an affirmation and repeat it to yourself. A friend uses the following: “I’m safe, and the flight will be fine.” Repeat it to yourself before you board, as you board, and once you’re seated. Sometimes when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed during flights I’ll close my eyes and practice deep breathing or listen to my meditation app (pictured).

Sit in the aisle toward the front of the plane. It can be helpful for nervous fliers to sit in the aisle so they don’t feel claustrophobic. Sitting at the front of the plane also cuts down on turbulence, which is felt more strongly toward the rear.

Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself just a little–wear your softest clothes, eat some dark chocolate, and read a book or watch a movie you’ve been looking forward to. Anything that reframes the flight as “you-time” rather than a time to be afraid.

Therapy. If you need to fly but can’t get past your anxiety then please seek professional help. There are a variety of types of therapy that can help.

Put it out of your mind. This is easier said than done for many, but some people can just block out things that bother them. When I think about it–a giant metal tube hurtling through the sky at hundreds of miles per hour, kept there by technology and the pilots’ skill–I clearly see why one would have anxiety about flying. So….I don’t think about it. Otherwise I would never get to work! 

Readers, do you get anxious about flying? How do you move past it? Don’t forget to check your flights!

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