Having a fear of flying when traveling is my biggest passion was not easy. I’d be panicking months in advance, trying to figure out how I could get through my next flight. I’d be searching for ways to cope and would only find useless facts. Facts like “traveling by cars are more dangerous than traveling by plane” or “there are 1,000s of flights every day! How often do you hear about a crash?”
These statements never helped me. My fear was still there and very real.
Where my fear of flying began
I used to be a different person — I used to love flying! I’d be thrilled when the plane would shake with turbulence — it gave me a jolt of excitement. I never felt like I was in danger, just that I was on a cool ride.
One day everything had changed and now I wonder:
Who was this person and where is she now?
I was flying from Edmonton to Vancouver Island and as we flew over the Rocky Mountains, the plane suddenly dropped what felt like several thousand feet, due to air pressure changes that are common over mountain ranges. I’m not sure how far the plane actually dropped, but it was definitely noticeable.
The cabin fell silent and everyone was in a state of fear.
I clutched onto the window and the arm of my chair and was frozen, petrified for what seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t move — I was just sitting there, my heart beating fast and a cold sweat running down my face.
Ever since that moment I’ve had a fear of flying.
How I got over my fear of flying
Over the years, I’ve tried desperately to get over my fear of flying. I’ve found a few techniques that helped me and I really believe will help you, too!
One of the reasons I’m less scared to fly is that on one flight, I got really lucky and was sat next to an off-duty pilot. I bombarded him with every question I could possibly think of, searching for answers that would help me get over my fear of flying. He was very understanding and answered every question, leaving me feeling relieved and calm.
At the time, what helped me the most was whenever I felt any sort of turbulence, I’d look over at him and see how calm he was. I’d understand the bump was totally normal and we were perfectly fine.
But not everybody has the luxury of sitting next to (and harassing!) a pilot. So, for now, please try the following techniques to help you get over your fear of flying.
How to conquer your fear of flying
Use Ear Planes
If you are like me, you may get disoriented and dizzy during altitude changes. For me, take off is the worst and I feel like I am losing control. I get completely disoriented and feel like I am floating. It causes me to panic as I try to grab onto something to feel like I am still sitting in my seat on the plane. To combat this I used ear planes.
Ear Planes are corkscrew-like earplugs that help lower discomfort from altitude changes, helps prevent your ears from popping and helps reduces the harsh noise from the plane.
If you get anxiety from feeling like you are losing control on a plane give Ear Planes a try.
It sounds a bit weird, but EFT is the technique of tapping various parts of your face to relieve stress and anxiety. This method is really about distraction, but it’s effective for calming me down. I generally tap the areas below my nose and chin and find that’s enough of a distraction to help me.
I have an EFT memory that makes me laugh so much! While on a fully-booked flight with my best friend and, as I was frantically tapping my face, I looked over at her and exclaimed: “Look at how calm I am!!!” I must have looked insane, but I really did feel calm at that moment.
As well as a fear of flying, I experience vertigo during takeoff and landing. Reading a book helps prevent my vertigo because my eyes focus 100% on the words of a page. I still slink down into my seat with my legs planted firmly on the floor in front of me, but it helps.
Easy-to-read, light-hearted comedy books are the best. The type is usually large and these books don’t involve a lot of thinking – my personal favourites are books by Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler or Tina Fey. Movies are also a great distraction. The only problem is you can’t watch them during takeoff or landing, so a book works best during these times.
Chat with your aisle mates
This is just another form of distraction, but having a normal conversation with the person you’re sat next to (especially if they’re strangers) can calm you down. You’ve really got to focus on the conversation to distract your mind from what’s happening around you.
Watch the flight attendants
This technique is similar to my experience with the pilot. Whenever you’re having a moment of fear, look at the flight attendants. If they’re calm, you can be sure nothing’s wrong. It’s also a good idea to tell the flight attendants you’ve got a fear of flying. Ask them for assurance that everything’s okay if there’s turbulence or to check on you often. They’re used to people who are fearful of flying and their reassurance will help calm you down.
Use the 5-second rule
When you have a sudden rush of fear, count down from 5 to 1 then immediately change your thought process to something more positive. Think of arriving safely, having your family or friends pick you up at the airport, all the things you’ll see on your trip, exploring that museum (or in my case – a really cool cemetery!) you want to go to or relaxing on a beautiful beach. Get excited you’re almost there! This technique will help change your fear into excitement. You’ll still have the same feelings, but after a while, you’ll associate them with excitement rather than fear.
Breathe through a straw
You can try this technique without being too obvious and it will help you focus your breathing and attention on the straw. Breathing deeply can help calm your body down.
Chewing gum helps in two ways. It combats the changes in air pressure which cause your ears to pop and it also gives the illusion you’re eating. Our bodies associate eating with being in a safe space. So by chewing gum, you’re essentially telling yourself everything’s fine.
One final tip
This might be another one of those “facts” I mentioned earlier, but it really helps me. Think of the turbulence you experience in a car the same as the turbulence you get in an airplane. When you’re in a car, you know the vehicle is fine – it’s just the road that’s a bit bumpy. It’s the same with a plane. The plane itself is fine – it’s just the road is a bit bumpy. Thinking about this really helps calm me down.
Your fear of flying may always be there, but these techniques will help you calm down. I’ve really experienced a difference and I’m much less anxious about future flights. I don’t spend months panicking and feeling so overwhelmed anymore. Once again, I love traveling and flying is an integral part of that.
Please try my suggestions on how to get over your fear of flying and see what works for you. Don’t let your fear hold you back from living your travel dreams!
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