How to help overcome a fear of flying
Flying. I have done quite a bit of it recently. Not that I am proud of that statement – it’s bad for the planet, and it’s not usually that pleasant an experience. But, as I have said before, it’s a part of expat life that is sometimes inescapable, and I am under the impression that I am not alone in my general loathing of this form of transport…
It occurred to me the other day, that thanks to our life in transit I am no longer as petrified of it as I once was, which as my friends and family will tell you (especially those that have had the “pleasure” of flying with me!!) is quite a big deal! The following might only be of use if you have a mind that works like mine, but just in case it helps somebody out there, here are a few points that have helped me along the way…
- Arrive at the airport in good time; check in online; keep your passport handy; and place all cosmetics etc. either in your bag going in the hold, or in a small plastic bag before you leave home. Anything that cuts down on the stress factor before your journey commences really helps, believe me.
- Steer clear of all “mood-altering” substances beforehand, i.e. too much caffeine, alcohol and if you are thus inclined, nicotine… You want to feel as calm and relaxed as you can beforehand. I can also confirm that drinking an entire bottle of a well-known herbal remedy will not help in your pursuit of calmness. It will instead just give you a huge headache half way through the flight…
- Don’t worry yourself about how posh the pilot sounds, and whether he sounds trustworthy, or whether he might be fully qualified. They have all had the same rigorous training (and security checks!)…
- Ignore the irrational “devil” sitting on your shoulder. Windows do not pop out of planes, wings do not fall off, and that man who looks like a photo fit from Crime Watch has been through the same scanner that you just have…
- Try to concentrate on something other than the bits of the flight that you hate the most, such as take off (my least favourite part!). I have found that the more I focus on a book, or the people around me, instead of what’s going on outside as we get airborne, the less sensitive to this I have become.
- Pay little attention to the strange noises on the plane. The bings and bongs usually mean something as insignificant as orange juice being ordered from the other end of the plane.
- Remember that turbulence is not dangerous. Commercial jets are a lot tougher than you think, and the captain usually switches on the seat belt sign just in case you throw your drink over someone accidentally, not because of impending doom. If turbulence is a huge problem for you (as it seems to be for the majority of people with a fear of flying – it can still send me into a cold sweat if it’s very bad), don’t be scared to ask for a steward to sit with you if it’s particularly bumpy. They are usually more than happy to help reassure you if they have the time. Above all else remember that you are travelling through turbulence, it doesn’t usually last for the whole flight.
- Remember that the captain, and the entire crew all have families at home. They wouldn’t be doing this job if they thought it was unsafe, even if they don’t like their families very much.
- If you are so nervous that it actually stops you getting onto a plane, consider investing in one of the big “Fear of Flying” courses run by a few major airlines. My sister (a fellow sufferer for many years) actually did one of these, and it cured her to the extent that she was then able to complete a round the world journey less than a year later.
- Fly with children, you won’t have that much time to think about anything going on around you, in fact you might not even notice that you have actually taken off.
So there you are. I hope that this proves helpful to somebody out there. Good luck, don’t let it stop you, and (fingers crossed) you never know, you might even enjoy that next plane journey you go on…
PS. Feel free to add any more tips you find helpful!
Republished with kind permission of Emma via http://www.thesojournseries.com/bavaria/sky-high-getting-over-a-fear-of-flying/
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I really like your tip about investing in some sort of “Fear of Flying” course. My younger brother is terrified of flying and my mom is getting tired of driving everywhere for vacation. I’ll be sure to talk to her about finding a “How to Overcome My Fear of Flying” class or something.
Thank you for sharing your solution
Great tips. If looking at airline courses, caution is advised. Most are grossly outdated carbon copies of the course we ran at Pan Am back in 1975. Most tell participants that if they do the breathing/relaxation exercise they will control anxiety and panic. Not true. Research shows these exercises are completely useless.
Though you might think the airlines would do a good job, they don’t. They do it just for PR and have no incentive to improve the “product.” If you have taken one and did not get good results, the problem is inadequate help – not you! See this before taking the plunge: See https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/conquer-fear-flying/201405/how-anxious-flier-can-recognize-and-avoid-junk-psychology-8
Thank you for your informed feedback. Much appreciated.
All good tips! I’ve found that diazepam helps for long trips (or tamazapam to just skip the takeoff). I know drugging yourself is frowned on, but it’s awful to arrive exhausted from a long turbulent flight and have no energy to do anything for several days afterwards!
I also would disagree about taking kids with you. Kids sense your fear and follow your example: ‘if Mommy’s scared, this must be a scary situation.’ That’s how I ‘caught’ my fear of flying. When my kids were little we used to choose seats so that they sat with my husband and I sat somewhere else alone. More work for him, but better for them in the long run.
Thank you for your comments, Rachel. I’m glad you’ve found what works for you. It’s not easy to be prescribed tranquilisers in most countries though, but you are right about kids ‘catching’ phobias from others.