How to Break Free from Your Fear of Flying

Love Yourself. Be Brave. Ask for Help.

If you have a fear of flying, you’re not alone. Estimates about the number of people who are afraid of flying vary quite a bit. A poll conducted by Newsweek magazine back in 1999 reported that 50% of the adults they surveyed were frightened, at least some of the time, when flying on commercial airlines.

For some people, a fear of flying can be very intense and the way they deal with it is to avoid flying altogether. Others, who have to fly for one reason or another, may experience symptoms like rapid heartbeat, sweating, rapid breathing, and nausea. 

If you have to fly but the thought of getting on a plane gets your heart beating faster, it’s time to take action. 

Follow these tips for coping with your fear:

  • Try to get a seat as close to the front of the cabin as possible. One of the things that terrifies people the most during a flight is turbulence. Much of the time, turbulence feels a lot worse toward the back of the aircraft. Sitting up front will minimize the bumping and shaking.
  • Distract yourself. If you can keep your mind occupied, it might help you overcome your fear. If you’re doing something else, you won’t be dwelling on all the possible things that could happen during the flight. 
  • Read a book, watch the in-flight movie, do a crossword puzzle, listen to music, or do anything else you can think of to distract yourself.
  • Avoid caffeine when you’ll be flying. If you drink coffee, soda, or an energy drink before or during a flight, it could be counterproductive. Caffeine is a stimulant that can actually worsen your anxiety when flying. 
  • If you elect to have an alcoholic beverage to help calm your nerves, avoid overdoing it.
  • Practice deep breathing to help you relax. Breathing slowly and deeply, in through the nose and out through the mouth, can help lower your heart rate and reduce anxiety. Try this if you’re on a flight and you start to feel anxious.
  • Take some time to learn about airplanes and the statistics of air travel. A lot of fear stems from the unknown. Educating yourself can help eliminate some of your fear.
  • Airplanes are designed to withstand far more stress than actually occurs in a normal flight.
  • Learn about how an airplane works. Find out what causes lift, what turbulence really is, and what all of the strange sounds you hear during a flight might be.
  • Did you know that flying in an airplane is the safest form of transportation? The odds of being involved in an accident on an aircraft are approximately 1 in 11 million. To put this in perspective, your chances of dying in an automobile accident are 1 in 5000. It’s actually more dangerous to drive to the airport than it is to fly on a plane.
  • Face your fears head on. The only way to truly get past any fear is to put yourself in that type of situation and find a way to get through it.
  • When flight attendants are in school, they spend some time learning about how to service customers. However, they also watch videos about hijackers, cabin decompression, and plane crashes. Having a great deal of exposure to flying, or anything else for that matter, desensitizes people and makes them less afraid.
  • There is even something known as exposure therapy where they put people who are afraid of flying into a realistic simulator and try to scare them on purpose. This helps them learn how to cope better with the situation.

The fear of flying can be pretty intense. You might be afraid to fly, but you have to fly for business or a family emergency. Try out some of these tips to lessen your fear and make your flight more enjoyable.

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