How to get over a fear of flying
Traveling by plane is part of everyday life for many people today, just like driving a car or taking the bus: whether it is for a well-deserved vacation in a far-off country or for a business trip abroad.
What is a convenient form of transportation for some is for many others a real torment because they are paralyzed with fear of flying.
The fear of flying is called aerophobia. From nausea to heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, and panic attacks - the symptoms of this phobia are manifold.
Some people are afraid of flying so much that these symptoms already appear several weeks before the flight date.
Are you also afraid of flying? Then this article is made for you. We provide you with suggestions on how to stay relaxed before and during your flight and, hopefully, on how to overcome fear of flying in airplanes in the long run.
I am very scared of flying! Why so?
Your traveling companions are telling you the numbers and statistics that prove that the airplane is the safest mode of transportation today. And even though they are right, you cannot overcome a fear of flying.
This is because the fear of flying (like many other phobias) is rarely rational. So don't be ashamed of how you feel and better focus on how to get over a fear of flying in airplanes.
Before your trip
1. Best place to sit on a plane for anxiety
Try to figure out what scares you the most. If you are afraid of heights, you should not choose a window seat.
If you have a panic attack in the enclosed spaces, it’s best to reserve an aisle seat or a seat in the emergency exit row.
To ensure maximum comfort, you can as well upgrade to extra legroom. This will allow you to stretch whenever you want and feel less squeezed.
2. Think positive
Negative thoughts and endless plane crash scenarios you might have in your mind will just increase your fear of flying. Think positive - focus on how thrilling it will be at your destination and the fun things you will do there.
Chat with your traveling companions and share your pre-holidays excitement with each other, away from negative thoughts. This way you will reduce your fear of flying and will calm down before your flight.
At the Airport
1. No hassle, no stress
Arriving at an airport at the last minute and rushing through the terminal to make it on time for the flight will increase your heart rate. If you are afraid of flying, this pre-flight hassle might even lead to a panic attack.
Allow yourself plenty of time before the flight to calm down and relax. This will also help to reduce your fear of flying.
Arrival at the airport depends on many factors so verify beforehand how early you should get to the airport. If you run into any unexpected problems or delays, you'll have enough time to deal with them in peace without any hassle and stress.
Even if your flight gets delayed, there is no reason to stress. In many cases, you can get compensation of up to €600 (£520) from the airline. Check the eligibility of your flight with our free flight delay compensation calculator.
2. Enjoy time at the airport
Some airports have therapy animals that walk through the terminals and help passengers to reduce fear of flying. For example, emotional support dogs were introduced at the Southampton Airport to help nervous flyers.
While waiting, you can also do some shopping or delight yourself with delicious food. A light snack before the flight will give you a feeling of fullness, comfort, and calmness taking the fear of flying away from you.
On a plane
1. Talk to a flight attendant
It’s better to warn your flight attendant in advance about your anxiety. In this matter, the airline crew will be especially attentive to you and, if necessary, will advise you on how to calm down on a plane.
During the flight attendant courses, they are taught not only to ensure safety and proper food delivery but also to provide support to all passengers, including the methods of how to help with overcoming fear of flying.
2. Breathe and relax
While it may seem like you can never calm down in times of panic attack, breathing and relaxation exercises can calm your body and mind. This will get you much closer to solving the problem of how to stop a fear of flying.
Try to take deep breaths in through your nose and exhale slowly.
Progressive muscle relaxation exercises can also take you out of your fear of flying. This involves tensing various muscle groups and then intentionally relaxing them. This little nothing can work miracles in stressful situations and significantly reduce the fear of flying.
3. Have a drink: is it a good idea?
While alcohol can help with overcoming your fear for a short period, you should better not consume it together with the flight anxiety medications.
Moreover, it contributes to dehydration and might only reinforce your fear of flying.
It is best to drink water before and during the flight. This way you will stimulate your blood circulation and reduce dizziness. Perhaps, you could ask your flight attendant for water with lemon.
Soothing herbal teas also work wonders to reduce the fear of flying. Avoid drinks like sweet strong tea or coffee - their caffeine content will only increase your heart rate and anxiety.
How to get over your fear of flying
Pills for fear of flying
What medicine to take for fear of flying? Some people use tranquilizers prescribed by their doctors to overcome fear of flying and anxiety disorders in general. While the flight anxiety medication will work instantly in most cases, it will not solve the real problem.
In addition, these drugs have a high potential for addiction and might have severe side effects. Therefore such anxiety medications have to be prescribed by a doctor.
Therapeutic activities for fear of flying
Nowadays there are also workshops and therapeutic activities to overcome fear of flying in a sustainable, long-term way. Methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for fear of flying, confrontations, and hypnosis have enabled countless people to face and overcome fear of flying.
In addition, it is also recommended to use an Autogenic Training course to reduce anxiety and stress.
Courses by airlines for fear of flying
Many airlines also acknowledge the aerophobia problem that prevents people from living such an exciting traveler’s life.
For example, within its Flying with Confidence courses, British Airways pilots and crew teach how to get over a fear of flying: there are courses specially dedicated for adults, teenagers, and children.
Fear of flying turbulence: how to cope with it?
Experts assure that air turbulence is not dangerous for an airplane. It arises from the difference in pressure at the boundaries of dissimilar air masses.
However, if you have panic attacks or feel sick when you experience turbulence, there are few things you can do.
When booking a seat, choose a seat located as close to the front as possible. It shakes much less in the front of the plane than in the tail.
Booking middle seats would be a good decision as well. This zone is the center of gravity of the aircraft so the vibrations are less felt.
After boarding the plane, you can ask your flight attendant if there is a chance to get into the air turbulence zone. Thus, you can psychologically prepare yourself in advance even for the extreme turbulence.
In case of turbulence and feeling anxious, take deep breaths in through your nose and exhale slowly. This will help you to reduce fear of turbulence flying and will allow you to remain calm during the flight.
Child scared of flying: what to do?
Many adults are afraid of flying on airplanes, so there is nothing surprising in the fact that such fear arises in children, too.Fortunately, coping with the fear of flying in children is a little easier than the fear of flying in adults.
First of all, don’t ignore a child scared of flying and find out the reason for the fear. Watch some episodes of cartoons with flying airplanes: definitely not with plane crashes, but the light and funny ones. Tell children more about air turbulence but in a simple way so they are prepared for it.
While onboard, distract a child scared of flight as much as possible: play board games together or with a favorite toy. You can also ask your flight attendant for some kids' entertainment available onboard.
Don't let yourself give up!
Being afraid of flying is perfectly normal and not a reason to keep you from flying forever. Before giving up on vacation or work opportunities, there are countless ways to face and reduce your fear of flying.
Talk to a friend, family member or expert who will help with overcoming your fear, so you can travel anywhere with a clear conscience!
In the event of a cancellation, delay or any other disruption, you have the rights for EU261 compensation of up to €600 (£520) from the airline. So, on top of your fear of flying, you won't have to worry about these issues while in an airport or during your vacation.
If flying troubles you, find someone who has significant experience treating this phobia. Breathing exercises and CBT only set you up for failure.