Traveling is one of the most emotionally draining activities one has to go through. And while you may think you’re alone in your experience, having a panic attack, midair is more common than you may think. Managing how to survive a panic attack is hard enough to manage appropriately on the ground, so they seem extra overwhelming once you’re in the air.
Don’t let the prospect of anxiety keep you from exploring the world. This piece will highlight some helpful tricks which will help you manage your travel-related anxiety or panic attacks.
See a doctor before traveling
If your attacks are flight-sensitive, you MUST see a doctor or refill your prescriptions before you get on the plane. Based on your doctor’s recommendations, you may need to take a pill or two before you get on that plane. Knowing that you have an emergency plan on hand provides relief already, but when the first pangs of anxiety hit, taking a bit of Xanax might be necessary.
Visualize a safe flight
A lot of panic attacks stem from the fear of a crash. With no known person around, you may have to rely on yourself to calm down. Start by taking deep breaths, numb your thoughts, and visualize landing safely. Visualize actualizing the purpose of the journey and a smooth return as well. This will keep you calm and focused. Keep a meditation app on hand and make it a habit to breathe deeply. A lot of panic attacks and anxiety worsen due to shallow breathing. So nip it in the bud before it gets worse.
Distracting yourself from your fears of flying alone will help you forget them momentarily. When traveling alone, bring a book, crossword puzzle, or magazine to immerse yourself in a hobby you enjoy. If you’re finding it hard to concentrate, choose a movie or TV show that will hold your attention.
Survive a panic attack with CBT
Lots of people have a phobia of flying. If you find yourself with anxiety before you get on the plane, enlist a therapist specializing in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT also works to when you’re an overthinker! Whether it’s the plane or the fear of getting stranded alone in a country you’re unfamiliar with, you should get to the source of your worries.
A great addition to CBT is DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), which further enhances CBT skills to bring attention to mindfulness, emotional regulation and self-soothing.
A therapist will help you develop coping mechanisms and new ways of thinking about the acute problem. You might not know yourself what’s triggering the panic attack. For example, you might think you’re panicking because you’re in a crowded space, but it might be a fear of getting lost.
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety: Breaking Free from Worry, Panic, PTSD, and Other Anxiety Symptoms
When making your travel plans, also put some effort into planning and preparing how you re going to deal with your symptoms. The anticipation of uneasy travel will often bring on more stress and anxiety about your upcoming trip. Be ready to face your panic attacks by having a plan of coping skills ready beforehand.