Travel can be an incredibly exciting and enjoyable experience, but it can also provoke a lot of fear and anxiety for some people. Around one in every 20 people has a fear of flying, otherwise known as aviophobia. But why do some of us have this fear? And how can we get over it?
Why do we have a fear of flying?
Several different factors can cause a fear of flying. Some people feel claustrophobic in the enclosed space of an airplane. Others are scared of heights or of the potential of crashing or hijacking. Beyond that, the process of flying can be stressful and scary for a lot of people – what if you miss your flight? What if the airline loses your bag? Even though all of these outcomes are very unlikely, they can produce a lot of fear.
On top of that, flying is an unfamiliar experience. Some people fly very regularly, but most of us don’t, and you’re much more likely to have a fear of flying if you haven’t done it many times. It can take some time to get used to the sights, sounds, and feeling of being in an airplane. Until flying feels commonplace, it can make us very uncomfortable.
How can you get over a fear of flying?
These ten techniques can help you get over your fear of flying.
1. Learn the process
Get familiar with what will happen when you’re flying. Ask a friend who flies regularly or check out an online resource so you know what you need to do at the airport and what will happen on the plane. A lot of the fear associated with flying is caused by the unknown. Once you know where you need to go, what you need to do, and what’s going to happen on your flight, it will be easier to focus on staying calm.
You don’t want to be rushing through the airport to get to your flight. Your mind takes cues from your body, and if your heart is pumping because you’ve been jogging to your gate, you’ll start to feel more anxious. Give yourself plenty of time at the airport so you can move at your own pace without fear of missing your flight.
3. Pick an aisle seat
You can alleviate the fear of flying by choosing a seat in the aisle. With an aisle seat, you’ll have a bit more room to relax and it will be easy for you to get up and walk around or use the bathroom if you need to. You can also avoid looking out the window this way, which is helpful if you’re afraid of heights.
4. Drink water, not coffee
Caffeine will get your heart racing and keep you on high alert during your flight. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it’s not a good idea if you’re a nervous flier. Avoid caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee, and soda and stay hydrated with water instead.
5. Focus on lighthearted movies or books
Choose some fun and light media to distract you while you’re flying. Bring an easy-read book or download some comedy movies to watch in the air. This will act as a positive distraction that can keep you in good spirits. Of course, avoid any negative or disaster-themed books, television shows, or films.
6. Prepare some distraction techniques
Practice using some distraction techniques and write them down so you can use them if you feel nervous in the air. Try writing a positive phrase (like “I am happy and safe”) again and again on a piece of paper. You can even write using your non-dominant hand to force your brain to focus more on the act rather than your fear. Other good distraction techniques include clenching your buttocks, making lists from A – Z in your head (e.g. A to Z of animal names, or people you know, or films you’ve seen), and pinging a rubber band against your wrist.
7. Ask an attendant if you’re nervous
If there’s a sound or movement that’s scaring you onboard, ask a flight attendant about it. Most flight attendants have flown hundreds of times and they can reassure you that whatever is happening is normal. Don’t feel silly if you need some reassurance from the people who know best, as long as you aren’t calling them to your seat every five minutes!
8. Remember that fear is not danger
Bear in mind that there is a big difference between fear and danger. Your mind tries to convince you that they are the same thing, but they aren’t. For example, you might feel very scared watching a horror film even though there is no actual danger at hand. Remind yourself that just because you feel scared, it doesn’t mean that anything bad is going to happen.
9. Talk to a professional
If your fear of flying is affecting you badly, don’t hesitate to contact a qualified therapist or counsellor to help you work through it. There are also courses you can take online to help you alleviate some of your fear around flying.
10. Ask your doctor about medication
If you don’t fly often and you’re looking for a one-time solution, or if you need to take a very long flight, consider asking your doctor about a sleeping pill or an anti-anxiety pill to take for your flight. Even if you don’t decide to take it, it can be helpful just to know that you have the option.
Have you gotten over a fear of flying? Leave a comment telling us what techniques worked for you!