Flight Stress

Stress is a common problem when flying. Given the physical and psychological strain of flying, it is unsurprising that there are many people who feel stress for at least a period of the whole process of flying. Rushing to the airport through traffic, finding a parking space, negotiating luggage, finding your terminal and that’s all before the delays, cramped conditions, lack of sleep, oxygen deficiency and dehydration.

There are many factors which will contribute to a stressful flight. For many these can lead to air rage as a number of these factors overpower the individual to react aggressively. Those with a fear of flying, will inevitably experience further anxiety, given the psychological barriers they will have to confront. Medically speaking, irrespective of whether the stress is a product of aggression or anxiety, stress is the product of an increase in adrenaline and noradrenaline into the blood stream. Noradrenaline is produced in anxiety situations, whereas adrenaline is a means for our body to deal with aggressive situations.

If you are to deal with stress when travelling, then it is vital that you are able to reign control over the situation, by reducing the level of stress hormones in the body. This is particularly important, if you are often prone to fits of air rage, for the safety of both your fellow passengers and the air cabin crew.

Beating Stress

Beating stress when flying can be very difficult. Relax, take a deep breath and de-stress. The following tips should help you to enjoy a more relaxed and stress free flight:

Ensure that you get a decent night’s sleep before flying, as tiredness can compound stress. Planning ahead can help avoid many situations which contribute to a stressful journey. Make a note of the connection times for each leg of your journey, i.e. time of flight, time you need to check in (remember this is 2hrs or more prior to flight time for international departures), time you need to leave your house and so on. Very few people actually work out how long all the legs of their trip will take, leading to a last minute dash, which can only induce stress.

Always leave plenty of time to complete each leg of your journey. Remembering that you will be weighed down with luggage, and that airports are usually large crowded places with a number of stop points (luggage check-in ,immigration etc.) it is vital that you provide additional time to accommodate these possible obstacles. When waiting at the airport, try to relax your mind by reading a book or magazine, rather than getting wrapped up in any delays or crowds, which may begin to cause nervous energy released as stress.

Dissipate excess energy by taking a brisk walk on the morning of the flight, and whilst at the airport prior to flying. Avoid alcohol as this will only disorientate and tire you further. Drink plenty of water the night before and during the day of flying to avoid dehydration. Take advantage of in-flight entertainment to distract your mind throughout the journey by listening to in-flight music or watching in-flight movies.

Fear of flying

Fear of flying effects a number of people, the very idea of flying invoking severe anxiety. Fear of flying or aero phobia is a fairly common phobia, which can be experienced to differing extents. It is, however, one of the few phobias which can reoccur after treatment.

At the low end of the scale flying is merely an uncomfortable experience, with a vague fear of flying; however at its worst, the concept of flying can lead to anxiety disorders. In the majority of cases a fear of flying is caused by a general lack of understanding, that flying is one of the safest modes of transport in the world. Far more so, in fact, than driving. Studies shows that middle aged people are more likely to be effected by aero phobia than the young and elderly. Woman show an overall higher likelihood to fear flying than men. Like all phobias, aero phobia is the product of a complex combination of factors. The main components of this fear are as follows:

  • Fear of heights, compounded by flying at altitude.
  • Fear of crashing due to adverse weather, mechanical failure or terrorist attack (accentuated post 9/11)
  • Fear of lost control. Namely a panic related attack, whereby the individual is unable to vacate the confines of the airplane if she has a heart attack or other medical condition.
  • Claustrophobia, in which the person feels trapped and fears suffocation.

The following video may appease some of your fears of flying:

Dealing with your fear of flying

There are various methods of treating aerophobics:

  • Take a course to manage your fear, most airlines run courses for fearful flyers.
  • The medical profession provides psychotherapy through chartered clinical psychologists (UK) and cognitive behavioural therapists (US).
  • Stress therapy such as transcendental meditation is a useful alternative to clinical intervention.
  • Confronting the fear directly. This method, based on behavioural concepts such as desensitization, is practiced by many airlines.
  • The fear is gradually overcome through repeated confrontation of the object or situation.

Those who like to feel more in control of the situation may benefit from trying out a simulator in which they can experience ‘ piloting ‘ an aircraft for themselves.

Air Rage

“Air rage” (or sky rage) is the new label for extreme misbehavior by passengers on aircrafts. Frequently covered in the world’s media, cases of air rage and misconduct appear to be happening more and more. In reality, incidences of air rage are no more common than 20yrs ago, only now there is a heightened awareness within the industry to report such cases. Combined with a growth in the industry as a whole, the problem appears to be more acute, given that there is a now more of a concerted effort to recognize and deal with the problem.

Air rage is the product of several factors, which unfortunately occasionally collide. Reasons may include excessive alcohol consumption combined with a feeling of helplessness, both within the cabin and through being exposed to long delays, as well as general psychological feelings of lost control due to the stress and anxiety certain people feel when flying.

Many of these cases can be linked to aerophobia or ‘fear of flying’. The Civil Aviation Authority CAA, is trying to compile a database of incidents to assess the extent and reasoning behind air rage, ultimately to delineate possible solutions. Surprisingly, alcohol is not the main cause of air rage, with drunkenness only accounting for 25% of all incidents.  Instead anxiety through delays, cramped conditions and restrictions such as banned smoking are the leading causes.

Avoiding Air Rage

To avoid air rage during a flight, it is vital to relax. Tiredness is a major constituent of stress and rash, irrational actions. By ensuring that you get plenty of sleep on the night prior to flying, will automatically ensure that you are relaxed and less likely to be irritable.

If delays occur, take it with a pinch of salt, and avoid getting ‘caught-up’ in the situation. If you have to be back by a certain time or date, discuss with your airline alternate flights and routes available to you. Phone ahead and explain that you will be delayed. In short, deal with the problem rather than allowing the problem deal with you.

If you are delayed, accept it as a given. Shouting and violence will make not get you to your destination any faster. Go for a short walk, or read a magazine or newspaper. Don’t dwell on the situation, as this will only intensify your feelings of anxiety and stress. If you do like to drink during a flight, be aware that every drink at altitude will have twice the effect at ground level, so drink moderately interspersed regularly with plenty of water.

Flight Stress – How to Beat It