18 Ways to Navigate Stress at the Airport



Fortunately, many airports, recognizing this, have begun adding more serene spaces, including yoga rooms equipped with yoga mats. Look for them at Dallas Fort Worth, San Francisco International and at both of Chicago’s airports, O’Hare and Midway. The app GateGuru sometimes lists such amenities.

For cardio-induced stress relief, download the app Sanctifly that identifies gyms near 90 global airports offering day passes for an average of $25. Roam Fitness, an airport gym with showers and rental fitness gear, is currently available only at Baltimore Washington International Airport, but plans to open a second location later this year at San Francisco International Airport.

When you can’t find a space to chill, make your own.

“Find a quiet corner, whether that’s an empty gate, a lounge, or even a chapel,” said Sara Clemence, the author of “Away and Aware: A Field Guide to Mindful Travel.” She also recommends standing yoga poses. “In order to reduce the jumpiness that comes from being away from my gate, I set a timer on my phone to remind me to check the departures board, say, every 15 minutes.”

Come prepared with a meditation app or two and some relaxing music. Or seek a therapy animal, if you didn’t bring your own. (An accompanying animal generally requires a prescription from a mental health professional.) As used in airports, therapy animals are said to raise spirits, reduce anxiety and improve communication by being available for travelers to pet and interact with. A number of airports have therapy dogs including Denver International, which has 100 dogs and one cat in its volunteer pool, Phoenix Sky Harbor and San Francisco International, which also has a pig on patrol. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport even brings in miniature horses as therapy animals.

Fear of Flying

The prospect of hurdling hundreds of miles an hour in a metal tube at 35,000 feet is a very common stress-inducing idea. The National Institute of Mental Health has found that 6.5 percent of Americans have a phobia that prevents them from flying. Estimates of regular flight anxiety are much higher.

“Because fearful flying is so common, it’s hard to know from an epidemiological point of view how many people have it,” said Julie L. Pike, a clinical psychologist in Durham, N.C., who specializes in treating anxiety disorders.

Her first approach is rational: learn the odds. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, some 42,000 flights take place daily carrying 2.5 million passengers. Accidents are rare. The National Transportation Safety Board found 412 people died as a result of aviation accidents in 2016 versus 37,461 in automotive accidents. Analyzing data from 1983 to 2000, the board found more than 95 percent of fliers involved in accidents survived.