April 30, 2024

How to Deal with Turbulence Anxiety

Woman on an airplane

How to Deal with Turbulence Anxiety

Turbulence anxiety is excessive worry before or while encountering turbulence on an airplane. While it’s fair to say nobody enjoys a “bumpy ride,” some people experience intense fear and psychological discomfort if their flight takes them through turbulent air.

How can you be less stressed and reduce your symptoms of turbulence anxiety? This article explains.

Turbulence: Frightening but Rarely Dangerous

Hitting turbulence in an aircraft can be shocking, even for seasoned, confident travelers. Feeling your plane being tossed around and hearing its contents rattling definitely gets most people's attention.

However, aircraft manufacturers are experts in turbulence and design their planes to handle it effectively. So, an excellent place to start when addressing turbulence anxiety is to understand that aviation professionals, including flight crews, expect and know how to manage areas of rough air.

In addition to recognizing that you’re in a plane designed to handle turbulence piloted by people trained to navigate it safely, there are other actions you can take to potentially reduce your turbulence anxiety symptoms, including the following:

  • Educate yourself about turbulence. It’s understandable to want to avoid thinking about turbulence if encountering it causes you significant anxiety. However, many people discover that learning about what causes choppy air, when and where it’s most likely to occur, etc., helps them feel more at ease.
  • Check the stats. Turbulence can cause injuries and damage on a flight, particularly to people and items not properly secured. However, it’s extremely rare for rough air to cause a plane crash. It’s been several decades since that last occurred. It’s also helpful to remember that air travel is statistically far safer than any other mode of transportation.
  • Select the correct seat. Seats further forward or over the wings experience the sensation of turbulence less. That’s because seats closer to the front of the plane are ahead of its center of gravity, and those over the wings benefit from their stabilizing effect.
  • Wear your seatbelt. When the pilot turns off the seatbelt light, you can unbuckle if needed — to use the restroom, retrieve something from an overhead bin, etc. However, when you’re in your seat, you should always have your seatbelt fastened. That way, if the plane hits unexpected turbulence, you’ll be held safely in place.
  • Focus on an activity. Immersing yourself in reading a book, doing word puzzles, and other activities can help you feel less anxious. When the pilot says to prepare for turbulence or when you encounter it, do your best to stay focused on what you’re doing rather than what you’re feeling and hearing. When seated and buckled in, you’re adequately prepared to ride out the rough air.
  • Do breathing exercises. Taking deep breaths, holding them briefly, and slowly exhaling can reduce your stress level — not simply because you’re focusing on your breathing. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, activating the parasympathetic nervous system that helps your body relax.
  • Talk with your doctor. The techniques above can be very effective in reducing turbulence anxiety. However, if you find you’re still stressed during flights, your doctor may feel that you can benefit from anti-anxiety medication.

Get Help with Turbulence Anxiety From Baptist Health

Whether you travel regularly or only occasionally, anxiety turbulence can make a trip less enjoyable. If you experience this condition, Baptist Health can help.

Discuss your symptoms with your primary care doctor or behavioral health specialist. If you don’t have a Baptist health provider, you can use our online directory to find one near you.

Learn More.