How to conquer (or at least decrease) a fear of flying

What was that noise? That really didn’t sound normal. And is that a weird smell, like gas? Surely that’s not good. How is the lady in front not paying attention to the safety video right now? If she thinks she’s getting in front of me with those heels on if we crash and the easily puncturable slide comes out…she better watch her back.

Seat belt sign is on AND an announcement to brace for turbulence..that’s it game over. This is how it ends. Even the crew has been asked to put their seat belts on?! Does that happen often?!

This guy next to me is seriously complaining about his meal…mate we’re on a freaking flying tube in the sky traveling hundreds of kilometres per hour and you’re concerned about chicken?

These are just some thoughts from the mind of a fearful flyer.

Airplanes register in my brain (which understands little of engineering obviously) as pure magic – just appreciate the fact we get there alive is my opinion. Have some perspective when it comes to the little things, such as those people who stand up IMMEDIATELY when landing only to block the aisles, you’re not saving time. GUESS WHAT YOU STILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR YOUR BAGS LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. It’s a power only in the hands of the baggage handling gods. But you didn’t read this article for rants. I’ll save that for another time.

Coming from one of the world’s most isolated cities of Perth, Western Australia, means going anywhere outside the state equates to at best a 3 hour flight but to get to Europe or the Americas it’s at least 18 hours on planes each way. In the past couple years I’ve taken around 50 flights and I get scared every time, regardless of the length or distance of a flight.

Needless to say having a great love for travel paired with a massive flying fear is not an ideal combination and though I doubt I’ll ever be get rid of it truly, these are some ways I attempt to deal with it – since generally flying is the only way to get you to your destination so you might as well attempt to enjoy the journey!

Look to the crew and the flight information

Every time I start to have a panic attack and the crazy irrational fear takes over, it often makes me feel better to look at the flight attendants and simply remember that these people take flights almost everyday, some even do this job their entire lives. There’s thousands of flight crew around the world on airlines most people have probably never even heard of. When I fly I focus on the possibility that there’s thousands of flights in the air at the same time. Remembering my own insignificance in regards to the amount of people who fly is strangely consoling to me!

I also like to consult the flight tracker on my screen if I’m on a plane that has seat back TVs. The illusion of knowing more information about your flight, even though really I have no control over anything that’s happening, makes me oddly feel a little more comforted. Having a countdown until landing is something I appreciate being able to see too.

Know (or don’t know) your facts

I’m personally torn on which category I fall into on this, but I think it’s important to decide which kind of fearful flyer you are. For some people knowing things such as that travelling by plane is safer statistically speaking than by car, can be comforting. Other facts like how the first half and last half hours of a flight are usually the most fatal are maybe not so helpful. Whether knowing more facts is effective in easing your worries or you prefer the ignorance is bliss mentality, read up on the subject to hopefully lessen your troubles. Airplanes really are one of the safest transport methods today.

Distract yourself 

Noise cancelling headphones are probably the best investment I’ve made. They help drown out the sound of not only other passengers but also the loud engine which reminds me that I’m on a plane. Listening to music, watching films, reading, playing games or doing puzzles, imagining all the amazing things you’ll be doing at your destination, walking around and chatting to your seat neighbours are all good ways of keeping distracted.

Address the problem fully 

If you’re into long term self improvement, there are abundant books, workshops and therapy options that are specifically designed for fearful flyers that could be worth looking into!

Choose your weapon of aid

I really hate taking any prescription medication if I can help it which is why this is the last point, but I understand for some people the fear is just too great.

There are also natural based remedies like Rescue Remedies or Travel Calm. I’ve tried a couple and usually they just make me kind of drowsy but everyone has different experiences and some people love them so it’s a consideration. It’s advisable to consult a doctor should you want to explore these options.

Otherwise, I find the age old method of a couple drinks before boarding certainly doesn’t hurt. In Spain I was about to board a flight during a terrible storm with pounding rain. There was frequent lightening and the lights in the airport had just gone out so I was getting pretty nervous, when I saw McDonald’s had 1 euro beers. It turned out to still be one of the best flights I’ve ever taken. Now I’m not necessarily promoting drinking, just mentioning the option! Keep in mind though if you’re consuming alcohol anytime during air travel that you already lose a lot of body water while flying so it’s important to stay hydrated too.

People can despise flying for different reasons and it might be unclear as to when or how you developed the fear. I find the important thing to remember is despite the tragedies in commercial aviation in 2014, it is very unlikely that anything serious will happen. Give yourself a pep talk before and during flights using whatever methods work for you because ultimately no one is going to be able to convince you to calm down but yourself.

Wishing you safe and (the best possible) peaceful travels!

 

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