Do you experience a deep fear of flying the second you board a plane? Are you terrified to fly on a plane? Perhaps you have panic attacks centered on visions of the plane plummeting to Earth. If you are looking for expert tips to help you stay grounded in the sky and beat flying anxiety, you are in the right place. Let’s talk about how to get past your fear and stay calm as a cucumber on your next flight.
What Causes a Fear of Flying?
As a former therapist, I’ve heard many people say that they are deeply afraid of flying. It’s understandably a pretty common phobia. Flying causes a lot of stress for many people. One reason for this is because flying does not feel natural. After all, humans aren’t meant to fly. So, it makes sense that you would feel anxious when being confined in a small, overcrowded cabin 30,000 feet in the air to be afraid of flying over the ocean. Flying is a reminder of one’s vulnerability.
If you are afraid of flying, then you are not alone. According to ABC News, as many as 25 percent of all Americans are nervous about getting on a plane. Approximately 6.5 percent of the population, or 20 million people, suffer from a more severe fear of flying called aviophobia or sometimes pteromerhanophobia.
A fear of flying can be a real problem if part of your job description involves travel. To calm your flight anxiety, you might go to extreme lengths to avoid flying—such as pretending that you are too sick to get on the flight.
How To Get Over a Fear of Flying
So, how can you overcome aviophobia? Here are some easy things that you can do to gain peace of mind on your next flight.
#1 Change Your Thoughts
You’ve probably heard that flying is one the safest form of transport. However, a fear of flying is not fueled by facts. Irrational thoughts that involve catastrophic scenarios is behind flight anxiety. These beliefs make it impossible to feel that flying is safe. These worst-case scenario thoughts are so powerful that they even produce physical symptoms. It can be tough to keep them from occurring.
One method that cognitive-behavioral therapists use to combat anxious thoughts is cognitive restructuring. This is a technique that is used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Most of the time, thoughts are automatic. So, you have them without thinking about it. To use cognitive restructuring, you learn to identify automatic thoughts that are irrational and replace them with more realistic ones. So, for example, you might take the idea “If I have a medical emergency on board, there is no way to get help” and change it to “Airline personnel are trained to handle medical emergencies. They routinely practice what to do if a passenger has a medical problem and will make sure that I get the medical treatment I need.” For CBT to be effective, it’s something that you really have to practice every day.
#2 Demystify Flying
The average flight passenger is not very knowledgeable in aviation. It is natural to feel afraid of the unknown. This is one of the biggest factors that contribute to a fear of flying. However, the truth is that almost no other mode of transportation is as safe as an airplane. Plus, airplanes are getting safer each year, thanks to advancements in design and engineering. As a result, you are less likely to die from flying than from anything else.
Airplanes are carefully designed to withstand emergencies. Engine failures do not result in the plane plummeting from the sky as most people imagine. Commercial airliners can fly with just one engine. So, even if both engines fail, an aircraft can glide for more than 70 miles before it needs to land. This provides the pilot with plenty of time to safely land the plane.
#3 Don’t Stay Silent
Many people who experience If you are experiencing aviophobia are reluctant to speak up about it. However, if you are anxious when you fly, it’s important to talk to the cabin crew. It’s OK to ask for extra reassurance and attention if needed. Airline staff should be trained to meet passengers’ needs. They can remind you of how safe flying is and perhaps just help distract you from worrying thoughts.
#4 Be Prepared
Before your flight, make sure you are prepared with things to help you have a more enjoyable and comfortable flight. Choose a couple of e-books that you really excited to read, and download these before the flight. If you are not much of a reader, download the latest movies to watch on your Kindle. Audible books are also great for long flights. Distracting yourself can really help when it comes to fear of flying because it pulls your attention elsewhere, which can help minimize strong emotions.
#5 Consider Therapy
Regardless of how intense your fear of flying is, therapy can help. A therapist can help you develop coping skills to manage your anxiety about flying. Most importantly, therapy can help you identify triggers that cause your anxiety and safely confront your fear. Therapists use treatments specifically designed for anxiety. These treatments may include:
- Exposure therapy – Your therapist gradually exposes you to flying until you are no longer anxious.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy – This involves identifying, confronting and changing thought patterns that cause anxiety.
- Relaxation skills – Relaxation skills such as deep breathing and visualization are effective ways to manage anxiety.
The best part is that you can do therapy right from the comfort of your own home if you’d like. Online therapy can be one of the best things to combat a fear of flying. Research suggests that it’s just as effective as in-person therapy. Plus, it’s private and convenient.
Conquer Your Flight Anxiety Once and for All
Don’t let flight anxiety keep you from traveling. The world is waiting!
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