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december 17, 2018

Conquer fear of flying once and for all

Does the thought of flying make you break out in a cold sweat? Don’t give up. Here are some tips on how to find your Zen next time you board a plane.

Understanding fear of flying

Humans have no wings, there is no doubt about it, so taking to the sky is not something that comes naturally to everyone. The mere thought can trigger reactions of fear or heightened awareness. In fact, nearly 25% of people experience varying degrees of discomfort once on board an aircraft.

While the fear of dying or being overwhelmed by a panic attack top the list of flying-related fears, these experiences can really differ from one person to the next. Fear of a technical malfunction or sudden weather incident, claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), agoraphobia (fear of public places), emetophobia (fear of vomiting), fear of heights or germs are the most common – and they can be cumulative.

Increased heart rate, sweating, shivers, weeping and muscle tension―all signs associated with anxiety―are common symptoms of the fear of flying.

Get the right tools before taking off

1. Psychological support

You have tried to reason with yourself. Your sister, your partner, your friend have also tried (in vain). Yes, planes are safe. No, they do not crash if struck by lightning. Yes, driving a car every day is riskier than flying (your office co-worker sends over statistics to back this up). You know all that. But none of it makes a difference.

Fortunately, professionals are there for you. A psychologist could, for example, help you determine the causes of your anxiety and work with you to find the tools to deal with it.

They could also teach you breathing and visualization techniques, help you put your feelings into words and offer you practical advice to apply in the cabin: lots of tips to help you feel more in control during your next flight.

2. Flight simulator

Does turbulence terrify you? Some aviation training centres make their flight simulator accessible to those who fear getting on board. Experienced staff will take the time to demystify the in-flight environment and can answer any question you might think to ask.

In a perfect replica of the cockpit, you will learn that turbulence is simply the equivalent of bumps on a country road – in other words, there is virtually no danger involved. An illuminated seatbelt sign does not mean imminent danger, but that it would be best to remain seated and fasten your seatbelt to avoid a fall.

On top of that, the thousand and one light buttons in the cabin will no longer be a mystery to you!

Spot your in-flight support crew

Once on board, sit down and make yourself comfortable. Preview the in-flight entertainment: an occupied mind is less likely to imagine worst-case scenarios.

Express any of your concerns to your flight attendant. They are the altitude experts. They will know how to reassure and advise you.

Put the tips your therapist provided into practice: breathe, relax your muscles, visualize. If some anxiety symptoms do appear, tell yourself they are only temporary. Loosen up and let go of that armrest!

Celebrate your victories, both big and small

When you are back on solid ground (finally), take a few deep breaths, then find the time to take stock. Did the flight go well? How did you feel? Were you able to feel safe? What do you want to change or improve next time?

Putting your experience into words allows you to rationalize some of your fears and measure how far you have progressed.

It’s a sure bet that your wonderful travel memories will quickly make you forget those more trying moments!