According to research, approximately 25% of people have a fear of flying.
Some just do not like flying, others feel anxiety or experience panic attacks. For 10% of these people, fear of flying turns into Aviophobia which can lead to an absolute refusal to get on a plane.
If you have a fear of flying, did you know that statistically, travelling by plane is one of the safest forms of travel? In 2017, there were only 10 airplane accidents which collectively resulted in the death of 44 passengers and 35 people on the ground. 2017 was the safest year ever for commercial airline travel.
Even so, this information does little to help the frightened plane passenger relax. In fact, fear of flying is one of the most common fears in our modern world. Whilst every traveller is different, typically fear of flying involves a combination of fears – enclosed spaces, heights and the feeling of not being in control while being miles up in the air.
Are there any tips and tricks that you can use in order to cure your nerves and overcome the fear of flying, so you can go see the world and turn the flight into a pleasant experience? Yes, the good news is that there are ways in which to cope with and even overcome your fear of flying.
The team at Go Insurance have put together the following tips and tricks to help you overcome fear of flying.
Do Your Maths
Before the flight, take the time to prepare yourself and know what to expect.
Read up about how planes work, what causes turbulence and how the plane takes off and lands. If you educate yourself about the mechanics of a plane and the pure physics of flight, you will understand what is happening around you and this will help to alleviate your anxiety.
Look at images of the plane on which you will be travelling, so that it will become familiar and not scary.
Do what is called “imaginal exposure” – imagine yourself arriving at the airport, boarding, then taking off and flying. Then imagine yourself landing and getting off the plane. Over time, you will feel your anxiety rising and lowering until it is gone or greatly reduced. Practice this and your brain will be ready when you actually do it.
When making the booking, choose an aisle seat – it will be easier for you to get up and move around. An aisle seat offers the added bonus of letting you sit away from the window and the views you may find scary.
If turbulence is what scares you, choose a seat in the middle of the plane over the wings as this area tends to be the least affected by turbulence.
If you fear the sounds of the plane, sit closer to the front of the plane as it is quieter there.
If choosing your seat is not possible, don’t panic. Both the airplane noises and turbulence are normal parts of the flight. Planes are built for turbulence and mostly the turbulence experienced during flight is far less than what the aircraft has been built to withstand.
In the days prior to the flight, avoid anything which increases anxiety (eg watching airplane disaster movies!) and try to focus on positive things – for example, on the things that you will do once you reach your destination.
At the Airport
On the day of your flight, allow yourself enough time to reach the airport. If you are nervous about flying, don’t add to that anxiety by not having sufficient time to travel to the airport and check-in before the flight closes. Rather, be on time (maybe even a little early), go through the checks and wait for the flight in the departure lounge. Once in the lounge, relax and mentally prepare for your flight. If you find your anxiety is less when you’re busy, why not do some shopping, read a magazine or chat to a fellow traveller?
On the Plane
As you enter the plane, greet the crew and if possible chat with one of the flight attendants. This will help to reassure you that you are in a friendly environment and the crew is competent and knowledgeable. Be aware that pilots are professionals who undergo serious training, have extensive flying experience and are subject to simulator tests at least twice a year. Commercial airplanes are well maintained and are checked by licensed engineers before each flight. Remember that air traffic controllers are also well-trained and the pilots abide by strict rules.
Turn on the air vents above your seat. The flow of air will make you feel less claustrophobic. Listen to a relaxing playlist on your phone, read a funny book or magazine, or watch a comedy. Think about splitting the flight into several 30 minute sections – read a book for 30 minutes, listen to music for 30 minutes, eat a meal for 30 minutes, solve crossword puzzles, etc. These types of activities will release Dopamine in your brain allowing you to stay focused on the task. Introspection and your imagination are not your friends here, so stay occupied.
Another good idea is to connect with those around you – try to chat with your neighbor. Pleasant conversation helps your body to release Oxytocin which naturally fights stress hormones making us feel relaxed. If you’re travelling with friends or relatives, share your concerns with them. Their support will be priceless. That said, once you acknowledge your anxiety, do not feed it – try to focus on something else.
Deep breathing is invaluable in situations you find uncomfortable – it helps to relieve stress. Breathe slowly and deeply while counting to ten. Combine that deep breathing with a muscle contraction, for example clench your buttocks as this will send other signals to the spinal cord. There are some easily accessible acupressure points on your wrist, elbow and forehead you can use to reduce anxiety and stress. Aromatic oils are also great to smell – there are many (eg Lavender, Vetiver and Bergamot) which are well known for their relaxing effect. Try inhaling these relaxing scents straight from the bottle or a few drops on a tissue. Alternatively, apply some aromatic oil to your pulse points or behind your ears.
Avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks. Although alcohol is known for its sedative effect, try and avoid it if you can – the sedative effect is only temporary and alcohol is very dehydrating which may intensify your anxiety. If you’re taking anti-anxiety medication, don’t forget these often shouldn’t be combined with alcohol.
Most travellers experience anxiety in some form or other. Travelling can be a stressful experience – even if it all goes to plan. Sometimes, acknowledging that you’re going to feel anxious or tense while travelling helps – you certainly wont be the only nervous flyer!
If your fear of flying is causing extreme stress or anxiety, it’s a good idea to seek professional advice. There are many online and face-to-face courses available specifically to help travellers overcome their fear of flying. It’s also a good idea to think about talking to your doctor or seeing a psychologist who can help you work through your fear and develop coping strategies that will allow you to fly as comfortably as you possibly can.
Categories: Travel Advice