Travel Tips

11 Tips to Help a Fear of Flying

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Are you afraid of flying? Don't be embarrassed, because 1 in 3 people have experienced this phobia. Personally, I didn’t take my first flight until I was 25 years old. It was an international flight from Michigan to Seoul, South Korea which takes about 14 hours.

Despite my nerves, I made it through and even enjoyed part of the trip. I find that my anxiety level peaks during takeoff or moments of turbulence. Over the years I have made great strides in finding ways to overcome my fear and now I even occasionally choose a window seat. Check out some of my favorite tips below.

1. Distraction is key.

If you are a nervous flyer then prepare distractions to take your mind off your worries! Some of my favorites are books, Netflix downloads, magazines, Spotify downloads, laptop (post-takeoff), or tablets. During takeoff, I like to simply plug in my headphones and listen to some relaxing spa music or movie scores while I read a magazine.

2. Create a routine to get yourself settled.

When I am flying my routine consists of settling into my neck pillow, covering with my blanket scarf, and as I mentioned before listening to my chill music, and reading a magazine. I even wear the same comfortable sweatshirt each time I fly. It’s all about establishing a pattern of behavior to get yourself settled. Also, I suggest you avoid caffeine or other stimulants that could potentially heighten your anxiety levels.  

3. Location, location, location.

If you are nervous, then a window seat may not be your best bet for your first flight or even your fifth. When I started flying, I would use an aisle seat so I could stretch or get up to use the restroom whenever necessary. Also, it’s good to choose a seat near the wings or in front, because I find that in the back of the plane I felt more turbulence. If you are very tall and require more leg room, then you may want to pay a little extra and get into the comfort seats towards the front of the aircraft.  

4. Understand yourself.

Why are you afraid? Do you fear a lack of control? Write it down in a journal and if necessary reach out to someone to discuss it. Remember that you have the power to overcome your fears and anxieties. Don’t let them control you. Think of the reward when you get to your destination. 

5. Learn to separate fear from true danger.

Often we fear things that are not even an imminent danger to us. When you feel your heart racing during your flight, remember that there is no problem. You are just nervous and that’s totally okay. Breathe and remind yourself that these pilots and flight attendants do this many times a day. They don’t want anything bad to happen either and will do everything in their power to make sure everyone gets to their destination safely.

6. Get comfortable!

Do everything you can to make yourself feel comfortable. Bring a blanket, neck pillow, noise canceling headphones, slippers, fuzzy socks, or anything within reason that makes you feel better. Don’t worry about looking silly to others. I’ve seen people put on those spa face masks during the flight. So have no shame!

7. Fly with an experienced friend or loved one.

This is always an excellent method and distraction. If you have a chatty friend then they could distract you from your worries for the duration of your flight. If you are alone then perhaps your neighbor will feel like chatting.

8. Know what to expect.

Knowledge is power so do your research. (Here is a first-time flyer guide from USA Today. Depending on the aircraft, your flight experience will vary. Larger planes used for international flights are very comfortable, because after takeoff you may not feel any bumps at all. There may be the occasional turbulence, but in my experience, it was very minimal. With the smaller planes, you may have a slightly more bumpy ride at times. However, please know that while turbulence may be unsettling to the nervous flyer, it's not dangerous. The only harm turbulence typically causes is the shuffling of luggage in the overhead bin. 

9. Don't beat yourself up.

Feeling nervous? Give yourself a break! Please don’t be embarrassed, because it’s very normal and there is nothing wrong with you. The only way you will get over your fear of flight is to face your fears and fly anyway or to develop coping mechanisms to get yourself through it.

10. Know the odds. 

I know people love statistics so let’s just get to it. However, one note and perhaps this is my number one suggestion, but avoid media headlines. Understand that bad news sells the papers because it grabs our attention. Your chances of being involved in a plane crash according to the Huffington Posts are 1 in 60 million and even if you are in one, your chances of perishing are even smaller. According to the US government, 95.7 percent of the passengers involved in aviation accidents make it out alive, because aircrafts are far more advanced today than they were in the past. Flying has never been safer so take some comfort in that.

11. Breathe and hydrate.

Hydrating is another one of my top tips for flying. You will get dehydrated during long flights due to the low humidity in the aircraft. Never deny a drink when it is offered to you by a flight attendant. I would always ask for water, but if your stomach is feeling queasy then try one cup of sprite or 7up. My mom is a nurse and she always gave me that when I was sick. As for myself, once I get through TSA I fill up my water bottle at a fountain or I purchase a large water from one of the convenience stores. I find that staying hydrated helps my body feel normal and makes me calmer as well.

Another tip is that you need to take soothing breathes to avoid a panic attack if you are super nervous. Below is an excellent breathing technique for you to practice prior to your flight. This creates a shift in your autonomic nervous system to go from a flight or fight reaction to rest and digest response.

  1. Slowly breathe in for 4 seconds.
  2. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Exhale for 6 seconds
  4. Repeat.

While these tips may seem simple, they have really helped me over the years. Now, I am quite the frequent flyer and look forward to many trips to new and amazing places.

Do you have any tips for a fear of flying? 

Comment them below!


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