close up woman looking out plane window

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Your Lyft to the airport gets stuck in gridlocked traffic. You finally get to your terminal — and then are faced with a security line that rivals Target on Black Friday. Which doesn’t matter, because your flight is so delayed that the only way you make your connecting flight is by doing one of those dramatic sprints through the airport…and when you do finally get onboard, you’re squeezed in between a screaming baby and a sneezing stranger.

Sound familiar? In all my travel — and I do quite a bit of travel, as the founder of the wellness travel site The Glassy—I’ve realized that sometimes getting to an ultra-relaxing destination requires making it through a gauntlet of stressors. Which is why, even if you don’t have a full-blown fear of flying, you might get a bit anxious during take off. (The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 25 percent of Americans get stressed out by flying, with nearly 7 percent dealing with aviophobia.)

But you don’t have to spend your air time gripping the arm rest — or the person sitting next to you. There are science-backed, holistic methods that will help you chill out when you’re en route.

And like many things, the more you can plan for it, the better prepared you’ll be. Here’s a four-step plan for keeping your cool when you’re flying.

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One month before the flight: Add ashwagandha

The growing-in-popularity adaptogenic root is a go-to Ayurvedic herb for handling work stress, relationship stress, life stress — and that includes the anxiety that travel may inspire. The key is incorporating it into your routine before your trip, so that your cortisol levels are stabilized before you even pack your suitcase. One study found that ashwagandha helped bring down levels of the stress-related hormone by 28 percent in just two months, so it might be worth considering adding it to your supplement regimen earlier rather than closer to your trip. (Be aware: adaptogens like ashwaganda affect the hormones you can’t live without, so make sure you consult a medical pro before adding it into your routine.) 

If adaptogens aren’t your thing, try some de-stressing techniques on a consistent basis, like an at-home yoga sequence or a 10-second a day breathwork.

One day before the flight: Write a mid-air to-do list

Keeping yourself busy on a flight leaves you less time to think about the things that could go wrong. So the night before a flight, write a to-do list—that way when you settle into your seat you don’t run the risk of blanking out (and then freaking out). It could be certain emails you want to make sure you write, a book you can finally dive into, or just that you plan on binge-watching a guilty pleasure on your iPad. However you want to spend your time, spell it out.

One hour before the flight: Supplement with some magnesium

The mineral has garnered buzz in the wellness world recently, and for good reason: it helps your body regulate everything from blood pressure to energy production. It’s also an all-star at keeping the nervous system in check, so when you’re waiting at the gate skip the glass of wine and instead sip on a magnesium-spiked drink (yes, you can find options in handy single-serve sizes). If you’re in supplement overload, get your magnesium IRL by ordering an avocado sandwich, grabbing a handful of almonds, or pick up a salad packed with dark leafy greens at your terminal’s deli.

One minute before the flight: Try some breathwork

The pilot’s warned the flight attendants to prepare for take off and you feel your chest clench. That’s when you want to pull out some mindful breathing exercises to help you keep calm in real time. Even something as simple as slow-but-steady breathing can help to instantly lower your cortisol levels and keep things mellow. (If it’s your first time trying out breathwork, check out our guide to the zen-inducing practice.) And if all else fails, just remember: a relaxing vacation awaits you on the other side.

Please consult a doctor or medical professional before adding in supplements or adaptogens into your diet and routine. Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.