The Betterment Project

What To Take To Help Calm Your Nerves When You're Flying

As countries worldwide roll back their coronavirus restrictions, airline companies are seeing their sales soar — right in time for the summer. This is joyous for many, but those with a fear of flying greet air travel with anything from mild apprehension to full-blown panic attacks.


If that sounds like you, you’re not alone: A large portion of travelers experience some anxiety before or during a flight. In addition, about 3% of Americans have a phobia of being on planes — known as aviophobia. 


There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to managing flight anxiety. Thankfully, there are various tools available to help you calm your nerves before and during air travel. You can take a supplement, do a breathing exercise, or practice simulated flying before your trip. What works really depends on you. 


In this guide from ASYSTEM, we’ll go over our favorite supplements to calm pre-flight nerves — and the other strategies that nervous flyers can implement to protect their mental health. 

 

Why Do We Get Nervous When Flying?

A phobia is an intense fear of something that poses little actual danger. Many times, phobias can be debilitating. For 3% of the population, phobia manifests as fear of flying — a condition known as aviophobia. 


Why this condition develops in certain people is largely due to individual factors. 


For some anxious flyers, this may be the belief that air travel is dangerous. The chances of anyone dying in a plane crash are incredibly low — commercial airplane fatality rates in 2020 were 0 per 100,000 — making it the safest form of travel. 


We may be biased towards viewing air travel as dangerous. After all, plane crashes are documented extensively by the media. In addition, they tend to be very memorable. In contrast, car crashes — which have a high fatality rate — do not receive much attention. As the adage goes, out of sight, out of mind. 


For others, air travel can induce feelings of anxiety due to the lack of control over the flight experience. Once the plane doors close, their lives are technically in the hands of just two people: the pilot and the co-pilot. Human beings are not perfect and can make mistakes. However, this mistake can be quite costly. 


Others may have a crippling fear of heights that sends them into overdrive when reaching high altitudes. Fear of heights is called acrophobia and can make air travel — which reaches altitudes of up to 40,000 feet — seriously terrifying. 


Even in the absence of phobia, a large portion of the population has anxiety surrounding air travel. This can be due to fear of enclosed spaces (or claustrophobia), germs, or being in close quarters with other people. 


Fortunately, it is entirely possible to manage (or even eliminate) the fear of flying. Once you accept your flying anxiety, you can move on to strategies that help to calm down your mind and body — sometimes, permanently. 


In the next section, we’ll go over what you can take to help you accomplish this.

 

What To Take To Help Calm Your Nerves When Flying

Some several medications and supplements have been shown to reduce flight anxiety. Whichever you choose to take, try it out at home before your flight. 


Because those with anxiety tend to be more sensitive, they can be more susceptible to the effects of what they take. As such, it’s better to give it a test run at home to see if it works well for you. 

 

Anti-Anxiety Medication

Your doctor can prescribe you a type of medication known as benzodiazepine, which can calm the nervous system. The most well-known examples are Xanax and Ativan, which act within minutes to relieve anxiety. They last several hours — which is the duration of most cross-country flights, such as Los Angeles to New York. 


Despite their popularity, anti-anxiety medications can cause side effects such as grogginess, drowsiness, and mental confusion. This is hardly an ideal state for beginning your vacation. 


In addition, these medications have serious potential for addiction. While taking them on a once-off occasion most likely won’t do any damage, it’s possible to develop a physical or psychological dependence on them.


Because of these side effects, many people choose to turn to natural supplements as an alternative. Supplements tend to cause few (if any) side effects and have a very low potential for dependence. 

 

Melatonin 

Melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally releases when it’s bedtime. Instead of causing drowsiness, it gently signals that it’s time to sleep to your brain and body.


Supplementing with it can help you shift how early you fall asleep, which can be used strategically for sleeping on long flights. If you have a long haul flight to take, supplementing with melatonin for up to a week before can help make sure that you fall and stay asleep throughout its duration. 


As a bonus, melatonin can also be used for jet lag if you’re traveling east. ASYSTEM’S Sleep Gummies contain melatonin to help you fall and stay asleep during your flight. 

 

Adaptogens 

Adaptogens are a type of herbal supplement that aid with hormonal balance. Their claim to fame lies in reducing stress hormones — such as cortisol — while promoting relaxation. 


Some popular adaptogens include Lion’s Mane, Rhodiola, and Ashwagandha — these are key ingredients in ASYSTEM’S Sleep Gummies


Studies largely support the stress-busting effects of adaptogens. For instance, one study found that supplementing with ashwagandha for two months can reduce stress hormones by about 30% while promoting a state of calm. 


Adding adaptogens to your routine can help you decrease stress-induced nervousness. Just make sure to begin supplementing one or two months before your flight. 

 

Magnesium 

Magnesium is an essential mineral that regulates muscle contractions. When magnesium levels are low, you are more likely to experience muscle tension. However, supplementing with this mineral can promote physical relaxation, sending relaxation signals to the brain.


As with adaptogens, you won’t feel the benefits of magnesium overnight. However, adding it to your routine at least a month before your flight can help you show up in your most relaxed state. This can be beneficial for your pre-flight nerves. 

 

Chamomile

A type of flower native to Europe, chamomile has long been used to promote relaxation. It is effective due to its antispasmodic properties, which inhibit muscle contractions and promote physical relaxation. 


Because your mind and body are interconnected — some even claim that they’re the same — a relaxed body can mean a relaxed mind. Studies support this theory, showing that chamomile effectively reduces feelings of anxiety


ASYSTEM’s Sleep Gummies contain chamomile due to its various benefits. You can take our gummies before your flight to help you sleep throughout. 

 

What Are Other Ways To Calm Pre-Flight Nerves?

Supplements can be incredibly effective. However, if you want to ramp up their effects, you can combine them with other approaches. 


Here are four other ways you can calm pre-flight nerves. 

 

Talk To a Therapist 

If you feel that irrational thoughts and beliefs cause your flight anxiety, a therapist can help you work through them. Usually, therapists with a cognitive-behavioral approach (CBT) specialize in treating people with phobias. Treatment can include a combination of talk therapy and gradual exposure to what it is that you fear.


A therapist can also try out techniques that communicate with the subconscious. This can help you regulate some of the sensations out of your awareness and calm down your body and mind. Hypnosis is one popular way to accomplish this. 

 

Take a Simulated Flight 

If the real thing is too much for you to handle, you can start gradually exposing yourself to flying through virtual reality. Some classes are made specifically for those who have a fear of flying. Usually, they involve a combination of simulated and actual flights, building up your confidence gradually until you are ready to take an actual flight.

 

Start a Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness is a popular way to take your mind off anxious thoughts while focusing on something grounding, such as deep breathing. However, it takes work. After all, it may feel like anxious thoughts are completely out of our control.


The good news is that with regular practice, you will be able to take your mind off thoughts that fuel your fears while bringing your attention to something that calms you while you’re mid-air. 


Meditation is one popular mindfulness practice. However, you have other options that may be more fitting for you, such as breathwork, yoga, or other relaxation techniques. As a bonus, starting a mindfulness practice can improve other aspects of your life

 

Go Behind the Scenes 

You know how watching behind-the-scenes content from horror movies makes them less scary? The same logic can apply to fear of flying.


Many people believe that planes are not reliable and that there is a high probability that they will crash. However, once you start learning about plane mechanics and what keeps them in the air, you will begin to realize why planes have such a low probability of crashing.


Speaking of probabilities, it might help to look at the data surrounding plane crashes. Unlike the forms of transportation we regularly utilize — such as cars — your chances of dying in a plane crash are incredibly low. To reduce some of your flight anxiety, it may help to look at some of the hard numbers of plane crashes. 

 

Takeaways

Fear of flying can seriously dampen the joy of travel. If that’s something you struggle with, you have many options for relief. Whether it’s talking to a therapist, taking a simulated flight, or taking an herbal supplement, it’s more than possible to calm your pre-flight nerves.


For a supplement that’s been clinically proven to promote relaxation, ASYSTEM’S Complete Calm System may be just what you need before your next flight. 


Our Sources: 

Flight Anxiety Reported from 1986 to 2015 | PMC

Anxiety Sensitivity and Affect Regulatory Strategies: Individual and Interactive Risk Factors for Anxiety-Related Symptoms | PMC

Home & Community Safety: Airplane Crashes | Injury Facts 

Anxiety Sensitivity and Affect Regulatory Strategies: Individual and Interactive Risk Factors for Anxiety-Related Symptoms | PMC 

Magnesium Deficiency in Critical Illness | SagePub

Long-term Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial | PMC 

Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies | PMC 

Meet our Experts

This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.

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