Whoever said that “getting there is half the fun” must not have had a fear of flying!
On Sunday, July 25, United Airlines had yet another incident make the news. A United flight bound for New Orleans had to turn around halfway through the flight and return to Houston because a female passenger became “psychotic,” running through the cabin screaming “we are all protected and loved! This plane is going to land beautifully and kindly!” It’s unclear whether the woman was suffering from mental illness, or whether this was a case of a fear of flying taken to the extreme.
Whether your flight phobia is just a mild uneasiness, or severe enough to make you want to jump out of your seat screaming, we want to help ease your nerves. Read on for our best suggestions to calm your aversion to airplanes so you can enjoy every part of your international travel.
Fear of Flying is Common
Afraid to fly? You’re not alone. In a comprehensive survey conducted by the Boeing Corporation, 17% of Americans reported being afraid to fly. It was the third most common reason for deciding to drive rather than fly, after cost and the need for having a car at the destination.
Severe anxiety about flying is a real medical condition, known as aviophobia. It’s not unusual for people with aviophobia to have other anxiety disorders or phobias about related issues like heights or elevators. Experts estimate that less than 30% of people with a severe fear of flying seek professional treatment for that specific phobia.
Many more of us have a mild fear of flying, or experience occasional fear while flying. Even people who fly for a living aren’t immune! In a survey of flight crew on a European airline, more than 9% of them said they felt fear while flying at least once a month.
What About Flying Scares You?
If you’re trying to deal with mild anxiety about airplanes, it will be helpful to take some time and think about exactly what you find scary about the experience.
For some of us, being in the confined space of an airplane cabin can trigger a sense of claustrophobia. Or if you aren’t a fan of crowds, you might feel anxious about being in a small space with so many strangers.
Perhaps you are someone who feels most comfortable in the driver’s seat. You might be nervous simply because you feel out of control as a passenger on a plane.
Are you afraid that the plane will crash? Your fears may be exacerbated by news stories of crashes, or scary scenes in movies. The security procedures you go through in the airport may make the tiny threat of terrorism seem more real and likely. And even the most stalwart traveler might get nervous when the plane hits a rough patch of turbulence!
Techniques to Conquer Your Flight Anxiety
If you have severe aviophobia, you don’t have to resign yourself to a life on the ground. Anxiety conditions like flight phobia are treatable! A professional can help you find the best treatment for your fear of flying. Treatment options include hypnosis, anti-anxiety medications, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Talk to your doctor if your fear of flying is strong enough to keep you out of the air.
For most of us, our worries and fears aren’t keeping us at home. But even mild anxieties about flying can make your trip unpleasant! We’ve compiled tips from experts and frequent flyers to help you stay calm while you fly.
Learn the Facts – Flying is Safe
You’ve probably heard that flying on a commercial airplane is far safer than driving. But it can be hard to keep that in mind when every plane crash is major international news.
It’s true that your drive to the airport is far more dangerous than the actual flight. The US Bureau of Transportation Statistics has calculated that the number of fatalities per mile traveled is 750 times higher for automobiles than commercial flights!
You may also take comfort in learning how planes work. Once you understand how planes are able to fly, it should ease your fear that the plane could just fall out of the sky.
Can a Drink or a Pill Ease Your Fear of Flying?
Having a drink to relax is a common, if clichéd, way that many travelers deal with their nerves. Other travelers may turn to pills for relief from their worries; from herbal remedies like St. John’s Wort to tranquilizers like Valium. If that’s your plan, proceed with caution! It’s unwise to take medication that you aren’t accustomed to, especially when you will need to be awake and alert when you land. Alcohol can also be dangerous in the air. The depressive effects of alcohol may leave you feeling even more upset, rather than relaxed. Too many drinks combined with the dry air in the cabin can also leave you dehydrated and hung over. That’s not the way to start your trip!
Self-Hypnosis and Meditation for Airplane Anxiety
Working with a professional hypnotherapist is a great option for anyone with bad anxiety about flying. But did you know you can practice self-hypnosis to soothe your fears in the air? Before you board your flight, search iTunes or Google Play for self-hypnosis or meditation tracks you can download to your phone or tablet. Bring a set of headphones so you can close your eyes and relax as you listen to a soothing voice guiding you to a place of serenity. You may find it most effective to prepare for your flight by listening to your hypnosis tracks daily for a week or two before your trip. Listening to them in bed, before you fall asleep, is a great way to both wind down and train yourself to relax. Practicing your self-hypnosis at home, where you feel safe, will help you calm down quickly when your flight anxiety acts up.
Keep Your Media Choices Light and Happy
Whether or not you decide to listen to guided meditations, you’ll be wise to avoid media choices that may increase anxiety. Instead of watching a spy thriller on the plane, opt for a comedy or family movie. (We’ll never understand why airlines show in-flight movies that feature plane crashes!) Listen to soothing music, read a funny novel, or play a puzzle game that will absorb your attention and distract you from your fears.
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Fly Calmly
No matter how well you’ve prepared yourself, you might find yourself getting nervous during your flight. One of the quickest ways to calm down is to focus on your breath. There are many breathing exercises you can do to help yourself relax. A simple exercise is to breathe in through your nose to the count of five, then breathe out for a count of ten. You should feel yourself start to unwind within minutes.
Get Over Your Fears by Getting on a Plane
Experts agree that the best way to overcome a mild anxiety is through exposure. For a nervous traveler, that means that the best way to get over a fear of flying is by flying! Every time you fly, you’ll be a little more confident than before.
Do you have any tricks to keep yourself calm while you fly? Tell us in the comments!