I get pretty bad flight anxiety. I used to hate driving in cars for long distances but the more I have to do it, the more comfortable I've become with it. It’s sort of the same with flying. I do it a lot and although I don’t love it I’ve become efficient at handling it and making it tolerable and sometimes even enjoyable! Here is what I do to help cope with flying.
I know there are quite a few here but I ran through all of these on each flight. Sometimes one works better than the others and sometimes I have to try a few different things to efficiently distract myself. It's crazy how much you can think about and how much it takes to calm you once you are anxious.
Bring reading material. A magazine, a book you've already started (already started helps because you’re already interested and invested in it!), anything and everything. Even if you get motion sickness, you can use it before take off or during the flight to distract yourself.
Bring a water bottle. Sometimes water can be calming and help distract you.
Chose an isle seat if you feel claustrophobic or a window seat if you plan on snuggling up and sleeping the whole flight.
Bring music. I used to listen to Taylor Swift's 1989 album on repeat; no idea why but it was my comfort CD. It was the only music I could really tune into and tune out that I was in an aircraft. Now sometimes I enjoy country, upbeat, slow, jazz, etc. It just depends so I download a lot!
Download a game or a movie. Another great distraction, especially if it's a TV show or movie you love or are extremely interested in. I would recommend The Office. Laughter really is the best medicine.
If you get nauseous from anxiety and/or flying, ask for a ginger ale from the flight attendants. Also avoid eating a big meal before. I eat half a bagel or a snack bar when I fly. I needed enough food in my stomach to not get lightheaded but not too much that I get sick. Sometimes I land and I am starving but it’s better than getting sick, which PS has never happened to me.
If you don't get nauseous, bring snacks to keep you occupied. If you spend some or all of the flight eating, you won't notice your anxiety as much.
Talk to the person next to you. I read a study that people who randomly chat with their airplane neighbor are happier. It will make you more comfortable with the situation.
Distract yourself with those around you. Watch a little kids play (not in a creepy way), make up stories about people, again anything to distract the anxiety.
Realize that flying is safe... and once you're in that seat, it's out of your hands. You can't change anything. Worrying won't make the plane not crash, it will just make you miserable, so just sit back and relax.
If you've flown before, remind yourself that you've done this before and you can do it now.
If you are too anxious, talk to the flight attendant. They may be able to find you an open row of seats and maybe even come talk to you during the flight to lift some of your worries.
Choose your seat carefully. The back of the plane is the safest, the middle is least turbulent (loud though), and the front is best if you need to get off the plane quick to make a connecting flight.
Read and learn about planes and the normal noises they make.
Watch the flight attendants. They've flown a million times. If they are relaxed then relax, nothing is wrong.
Sleep. I always like to be a little tired before I fly, so I can sleep on the plane. Book early morning flights or red-eyes to make it easier to sleep.
Wear comfortable clothing and layers. There is nothing worse than too tight of pants or being too hot or too cold on a flight. Wear layers. I wore a sweater, a sweatshirt, and a coat, which I took on and put back on throughout the entire flight.
DON'T drink alcohol. It can be dehydrating and cause heart palpitations, both of which can make anxiety worse.
Get organized. I have my bag laid out perfectly so I know where everything is in case I need it. I have my water bottle and my sweater on my seat so I’m not searching if I get cold. And I always carry one small carry on that is extremely easy to maneuver. When I can quickly get on the plane, get in my seat, and get off and to my next flight, I am a less anxious person!
And last but not least, if you just can't handle it, if you are on the verge of freaking out, getting up and running screaming from your seat, talk to your doctor. A low dose benzodiazepine, such as Xanax or Ativan, can really be a life safer. If you have anxiety, you should already be treating it. Read my advice: here. NOTE: these medications are extremely addicting and fatal in large doses. Take caution and realize this is an EMERGENCY situation, not an every day thing.