Dealing with turbulence is one of the less glamorous aspects of traveling. Turbulence is bumps and hiccups that happen during flights because of changes in the airflow surrounding the aircraft. Most people avoid thinking about turbulence until it’s actually happening. But reports show that rates of severe turbulence are on the rise, likely because of weather disturbances caused by climate change. So it may be wise to learn some turbulence coping skills ahead of time to avoid spending part of your next flight white-knuckling the armrests. Here are five proven ways to deal with turbulence.
Choose a Seat Over the Wings
Aircrafts are designed to flex and bend a bit so they can ride bumps in airflow. Generally, the front and back of the plane take on the brunt of the bumps while the wings help balance and smooth everything out. That means people sitting in seats near the middle of the plane, or over the wings, are less likely to experience severe turbulence than people sitting elsewhere on the plane. Sitting at the very front of the plane may also increase the chances of having a slightly smoother ride.
If you’re also looking for a quieter trip, try sitting near the front of the wings in a seat where the engines are behind you.
If you’re anxious at the very thought of turbulence, it may be a good idea to fill your carry on with things that can hold and absorb your attention. That’s because when you’re fully immersed in one activity you tend to notice things going on around you less.
The best distraction tool is different for everyone. But popular distraction tools include captivating books or audiobooks, games on phones or iPads, movies, favorite music and meditation apps.
Stop or Avoid Hyperventilating
Anyone who’s panicked before has probably experienced hyperventilation — that shallow, rapid, gasping breath that seems to get smaller with each inhale. But shallow breathing brings less oxygen to the brain and body and can make panic worse.
So next time turbulence catches you out of breath, try doing breathing exercises to gain back some control and reduce your anxiety. One good exercise is to sigh several times to relax the upper body muscles before moving on to deep breathing.
Another good exercise is to breathe through a straw or hollowed out pen, which helps calm hyperventilating by slowing breathing rate and encouraging deeper breaths. Recommendations vary but some experts suggest breathing through a narrow straw for one minute while holding the nose closed.
Most people don’t have trouble handling road turbulence, like dips and bumps caused by potholes. That’s because usually as long as the driver and car respond properly to the turbulence it’s only an inconvenience, not a real safety problem.
So if turbulence strikes and you start getting anxious, close your eyes and imagine that you’re simply driving on a bumpy, pothole-filled road. And if bad thoughts start to pop up, remember the pilot and plane conquer this type of turbulence day in and day out.
Another good visualization for turbulence anxiety is to imagine that you’re bobbing in a boat on the ocean.
Write Your Name With Your Non-Dominant Hand
A good way to lessen turbulence anxiety is to grab a pen or pencil and paper and write your name repeatedly using your non-dominant hand. Writing with your non-dominant hand takes a lot of focus, forcing you to concentrate more on the task rather than the turbulence. Using your non-dominant hand for tasks like writing also crosses over motor function in the brain, disrupting thinking patterns. This trick is usually most effective at calming anxiety before full-blown panic attacks set it.