Despite the fact that turbulence is hardly ever associated with plane crashes, most people feel incredibly uneasy and even anxious when they experience such unsteady movement on an aircraft of any kind. “Not knowing the cause of sudden bumps and shakes can be frightening, especially because many people associate turbulence with plane crashes,” explains Paulo M. Alves, M.D., Global Medical Director of Aviation Health for MedAire/InternationalSOS. “The feeling of weightlessness one may experience during turbulence on a flight, known as negative g-force, causes your body to release stress hormones that make you feel much more anxious than you may have already felt.”
While turbulence is never as bad as it seems, you may have a tough time sitting through a flight that’s even the slightest bit bumpy. Here are some expert-approved strategies for coping with turbulence on your next flight.
Sit Close to the Front of the Plane
If you’re already certain that you’re sensitive to turbulence or motion sickness, try to sit as close to the front of a plane as possible. Just like a train or a rollercoaster car, the back of the plane is the bumpiest, and prone to the most movement. Sitting towards the front will help minimize the jostling, and hopefully also your resulting nausea.
Practice Breathing Control Exercises
Tara Lynn Hubbard, certified yoga teacher and meditation practitioner and founder of Om the Go, suggests Pranayama, a main tenet of yoga that involves deep breaths. “As you inhale, you envision the diaphragm expanding downward, allowing the chest and lungs to expand and let the breath flow within you,” she explains. “As you exhale, you envision the diaphragm pushing upward, contracting the lungs and letting the breath flow out of you.” She recommends using breath as a tool to help keep you calm on a bumpy flight.
Read the Aircraft Employees
You might be startled by turbulence, but what about the aircraft employees? If they’re relaxed and calm, perhaps even chattering amongst themselves, there’s probably no reason to worry. Hubbard’s rule of thumb is not to panic or show signs of fear until the flight attendants do the same. “By remaining calm and observing the reality of the situation, it’s easy to see that this is a routine case of air turbulence and that you will be just fine,” she says.
Put Down the Booze
While you might think that a healthy pouring of wine or a stiff cocktail could help ease the sting of turbulence, Tang recommends avoiding alcoholic drinks altogether and instead, sipping water. “Not only will this help calm your stomach and keep motion sickness at bay, but it will help you stay in the right state of mind when it may be easy to worry,” she adds.
Rationalize with Yourself
This may seem obvious, but Tang says reminding yourself of the facts—that turbulence is normal and it’s usually viewed by pilots as an inconvenience rather than a matter of safety—can be helpful. “Remind yourself that planes are made to fly through these conditions, and pilots are trained and skilled to handle them,” she says.