6 Ways To Overcome Your Fear Of Flying

6 Ways To Overcome Your Fear Of Flying

Whether it’s for business or pleasure flying is one of life’s necessities - yet for so many it can be an anxious time. There is however lots you can do to help. From therapy and breathing techniques to anti-anxiety items you take on the flight, here are some effective ways to help you get through it…

Try Hypnotherapy

We all know that a fear of flying is all in the mind. So why not try and reset your thinking? “Clinical Hypnotherapy is rather like a system reboot for the mind,” says Harley Street Clinical Hypnotherapist Gail Marra, who runs one-to-one session weekly. When you are in a relaxed state as you are in hypnosis, your conscious (thinking) mind can settle down and take a back seat allowing your subconscious (subjective) mind to become open and receptive to positive suggestion.”

Gail says she has a lot of people who come to her with a fear of flying, although this can manifest in many different ways, from the safety and stability of the plane, the weather, turbulence, claustrophobia or not feeling in control. So, they will cover the whole trip from a more positive point of view. “In hypnosis we use guided visualisation, taking you through the entire process of a flight from packing your suitcases to arriving at your destination calmly and in complete safety,” she says. “It’s important to note that the subconscious mind doesn’t differentiate between a real event and an imagined one, so by visualising the event going beautifully, calmly and smoothly the subconscious mind can rewrite the script, reprogramming and modifying the old response pattern.”

Practice Breathing Techniques

Gail says if you’re still feeling nervous when you get to the airport, you can try diaphragmatic breathing or the ‘7/11 breath’, which involves contracting the diaphragm, breathing in air through your nose and into the stomach, allowing your stomach to expand instead of your chest. “When fearful, stressed or anxious, the body is in ‘fight or flight’ mode and the brain floods the body with adrenaline and cortisol. By focusing on deep diaphragmatic breathing, you can learn how to put your body back into it’s natural ‘rest and digest’ mode, stimulating the production of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, your body’s natural feel good state. This exercise takes you from anxious to calm in a matter of minutes.”

Gail recommends practising this breathing at home for a few weeks before your flight, accompanied by some calming music. “Your subconscious mind will very quickly learn to associate the song or music with a feeling of calm and the production of endorphins. You can take the music with you and listen to it in the background with headphones on while you travel. While you’re breathing imagine yourself at your destination having an amazing time. See yourself happy, calm, laughing and excited. See it and more importantly, feel it as though you are already there. Remind yourself that those butterflies in your tummy are not to be confused with anxiety, they are feelings of excitement!”

Try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Another type of therapy to try is CBT, which will help you to control your phobia and develop better coping mechanisms when you start to feel anxious. “As part of CBT, you can try exposure therapy, which involves increasing your exposure to your phobia to minimize your phobia or until you stop being afraid of it,” Niels Eék, psychologist and co-founder of the mental wellbeing platform, Remente advises. “Exposure therapy is a very gradual process, increasing your tolerance little by little, and while very effective for some people, it might not work for others, so always speak with a professional before starting any treatment.”

Consider A Fear of Flying Course

One of the best things you can do for a fear of flying is to book yourself on a fear of flying course. Plenty of airlines now run these - British Airways have ‘Flying with Confidence’, EasyJet has ‘Fearless Flying’, and Virgin has ‘Flying without Fear’. These allow you to speak with the pilots who will show you exactly how a plane works and lets you ask any questions or voice any worries you have with an aim to offer a rational answer and explanation - what happens if the engines fail, for example, or how turbulence works. They’ll teach you breathing techniques and distraction exercises, and let you speak to the cabin crew. Eventually, towards the end of the day, you’ll take a short flight, that’ll have commentary from the pilot, and sometimes a psychologist will also join you.

This kind of course vary in price - EasyJet prices start from £199, while British Airways start from around £289. But if you have a severe fear of flying, this could be one of the best things to help you.

Look At The Statistics

How safe is flying, really? As this BBC article says, today’s aircrafts are some of the safest ever created. But that probably doesn’t help - so check out the facts. Statistics on flight safety and the lengths to which the planes we fly in and the pilots who fly them are tested can help put your mind at ease and look at things from a different viewpoint. Let’s get slightly morbid here for a second: The Aviation Safety Network say there’s now a one in 45 million flight death-risk in the America - meaning statistically, you could expect to fly every day for 123,000 years before there’s even a likelihood you’ll die. Safety statistics by airline association IATA show that in 2015 more than 3.5 billion people flew on commercial aircraft, during which time there was only 68 accidents. And The World Health Organisation says that there were 1.25 million road traffic deaths globally in 2013 - overall, car travel is about 100 times deadlier than flying, and you rarely see people worried about driving a car. While it’s slightly macabre thinking, sometimes it’s good to put these things into perspective.            

Take A Weighted Blanket

Once you get on the plane, you can try and quell your anxiety in a number of ways, but what might help is a weighted blanket. Typically used to help those on the autism spectrum keep calm, they’re now being used for anxiety- and sleep-related issues, too. Weight blankets work, in part, by providing firm, deep pressure stimulation, and “stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and affect nervous system activity in ways that decrease overarousal and anxiety”. And while weighted blankets aren’t exactly travel friendly - some of them can weight up to 9kg - SensaCalm now does a ‘Calm-To-Go’ blanket that you can take on board a plane with you. Give it a go - it might change the way you fly for the better.

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