You love the idea of exploring new places, but your fear of flying is an issue. Some people avoid traveling because they hate the trouble that goes with it; lost luggage, delayed flights, airport waiting times. But what about flying anxiety? It can prevent anyone from boarding a plane and going halfway across the world.
Fear of flying means that you’re afraid of being on an airplane or another flying vehicle (helicopter, for instance) while in flight. Besides flying anxiety, we might also know it as flying phobia, flight phobia, aerophobia, or aviophobia.
Symptoms that you might have aviophobia are:
- Increased heart rate
- cold or sweated hands
- shortness of breath
- Choking sensations
- Clouded thinking
- Panic attacks in the plane
What causes fear of flying?
We don’t know precisely what causes aerophobia, as many different factors may play a role. It is not clear whether it is one condition or a combination of psychological factors various for every individual. It appears that some people get aerophobia from having claustrophobia or fear of heights (vertigo).
In general, fear of flying might worsen if you have other phobias and anxiety disorders—around 60% of people with flying anxiety report having some other anxiety disorder.
Other causes might be:
- A traumatic flight episode or a plane crash
- The environment – people that are not used to flying often or have parents who also fear air travel
- Flight conditions – take-off, lousy weather, or turbulence
- Physical ailments, such as ear blockage, cardiovascular disease, or sinus problems
If you wonder whether your fear of flying is irrational:
While statistics indicate that flying is safer than traveling by car or train, many of us are afraid of being on-air, which is irrational.
Whenever I board a plane, I always think that it might crash. If there is turbulence (well, most of the time there is turbulence), my hands sweat, and I want to cry. Other people worry about terrorist attacks and find the idea that they’re not in control of the aircraft terrifying.
However, specific steps can help you cope with the fear of flying, no matter why this fear exists. If you’re determined not to let your flying anxiety change the way you live, below are ten tips on how to not be scared.
How to get over the fear of flying?
Below you’ll find ten of the best tips you can apply to cope with your flight anxiety:
Rationalize your fear
It is challenging to separate anxiety (irrational fear) from real danger, as your body signals the same way to both. Make sure to understand and label your stress as something illogical, not a realistic threat. Your anxiety is what makes your terrifying thoughts feel so real, and remind yourself that being anxious doesn’t mean you are in a threatening position.
You are safe, even when you’re feeling so anxious.
Once you understand that you’re not in danger, you’ll see your fear for what it is; an irrational perception of threat.
Educate yourself about planes and air travel
If you become familiar with the plane and the flight conditions, you’ll most likely stop having unlike scenarios in your mind about what can happen. Knowledge is power when it comes to coping with your fear of flying. Remember that you can’t easily change irrational scenarios without facts, so it would be wise to check statistics or to learn more about the science of flying.
You can watch comprehensive videos or guides about how airplanes work or learn more about turbulence and when it occurs.
Understand what triggers your fear the most
Figuring out what scares you the most and examining what triggers your anxiety can be beneficial. If you identify the specific conditions under which you start feeling anxious, you’ll be able to manage your fear. For example, as I mentioned above, I always get nervous when turbulence is happening.
For that reason, I’m using Turbcast, an app that educates you about turbulence while providing you with knowledge and confidence. So take some time to think, what is that during a flight that frightens you?
Try to breathe with relaxation and meditation techniques
Put your noise-canceling headphones on, and start breathing calmly. There are many relaxation techniques you can try, but meditation will help you too. You can use meditation apps or programs like Calm or Headspace.
In general, make sure your phone or tablet is full of your favorite music and have a “calming toolkit” handy, so you can quickly get in a calm state of mind.
Have fun on the plane
If you’re on a long haul flight, chances are there will be many movies, series, and games to keep you entertained. But even if you’re not, you can download movies to watch on your smartphone or tablet.
I’m not an advocate of drinking on the plane because alcohol dehydrates you. However, I sometimes have a glass of wine, especially after a long day, which always helps me relax. It’s okay to treat yourself with some alcohol, but make sure to combine it with plenty of water.
Also, I always take advantage of that special “flight mode” time to take a break from social media and reflect on my thoughts and feelings.
Set a travel goal and try to cure your anxiety till then
Where do you wish to go a why? Perhaps you want to visit a favorite person or city, or you want to experience a dream trip from your bucket list. All these can motivate you and inspire you to the extent that your anxiety won’t matter that much anymore.
But even if it does, you can take advantage of the time you have until your flight and treat it. You can use counseling and therapeutic courses from SOAR, a great tool to prepare you mentally. You’ll see that the more you fly, the more you’ll get used to your fear.
Choose the right seat on the plane.
Choosing your seat can significantly help in reducing your fear of flying. Most of the time, you’ll be able to pre-select seats online, even on your flight day.
Choosing where to sit depends on your anxiety.
If turbulence frightens you, choose seats located directly over the aircraft’s wings (in the middle of the plane). This area moves a lot less than the front and back seats because you’re closer to the center of the plane’s mass.
However, if you want to avoid noise and people, you should opt for a front seat. If you’re afraid of heights or closed spaces, you should avoid the window seat and choose the aisle.
Keep your mind busy
If you find yourself unable to relax or have some fun, make sure to engage in distracting activities instead of relaxing ones.
Distracting activities can be plenty, such as an online course, a language course, or an informational podcast. Keeping your mind distracted will help you neglect part of the fear and set your attention to something that interests you.
Read books related to the fear of flying.
If you prefer self-education over anxiety coaches and relevant courses, you should make a list of books you can read on the subject.
Some of the books are; Flying without Fear by Duane Brown, Fear of Flying Workbook by David Carbonell, and Flying without Fear 101 by Richard Conway and Paul Tizzard, the co-founders of Virgin Atlantics.
Consider treatment by a professional
If nothing of the above works and your anxiety is too extreme, you should opt for treatment by a health professional. Treatments include psychotherapy, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and medication. I wouldn’t take anti-anxiety medication without asking my doctor or my therapist.