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an anxious woman waits for her airplane

For some, boarding a plane can bring on a racing heart, shallow breathing, clammy hands, a roiled gut, and clouded thinking. “It’s basically a miniature panic attack,” says integrative psy­chiatrist Henry ­Emmons, MD, author of The Chemis­try of Joy. “Your body is in fight-or-flight mode, with too much adrenaline. You can only talk yourself out of that so much.”

But you have other options. Starting about a week before your trip, consider supplement­ing with magnesium, a calming mineral that most of us are low in, suggests nutritionist Samantha ­McKinney, RD, CPT, a Life Time master trainer. (She recommends magnesium glycinate or malate.)

Emphasizing protein and fat in your meals and midflight snacks can help avoid blood-sugar swings that increase anxiety, too.

“When you’re anxious, the body releases cortisol, which can spike blood sugar, so you’re already primed for those glucose swings,” McKinney explains. She recommends opting for nuts, seeds, cheese, or hard-boiled eggs instead of foods that are starchy or sugary.

Calming supplements such as cannabidiol (CBD), passionflower, kava, or L-theanine — particularly in the form of a fast-acting liquid tincture — can also help, says Emmons. Rescue Remedy, a blend of five relaxing flower essences, is another travel-friendly option. Any of these can be taken before a flight or for on-the-spot relief.

Finally, breathing exercises are an excellent way to get grounded (even in the air). “If your breathing slows, it sends a signal to the sympathetic nervous system that it can stand down,” explains Emmons.

He suggests:

  • Inhaling to a count of four.
  • Holding the breath for a count of two.
  • And exhaling to a count of seven.

“The count­ing is another way of distracting your mind,” he notes. (Explore these other breathing exercises.)

This was excerpted from “6 Common Travel Illnesses and How to Treat Them” which was published in the November 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Mo Perry

Mo Perry is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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