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How to Get Over Your Fear of Flying

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How to Get Over Your Fear of Flying - Airplane wing flying in the clouds

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.

EFT/Tapping

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.

Learn the EFT Tapping Points and Tapping Technique

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.

Distract yourself

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.

The cover of the book Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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.

Book Cover for The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

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.

Chew gum

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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Comments 26

  1. I need to learn this tapping technique since I fly so much.

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      Yes, it definitely helps calm me down! It’s great in more situations than just flying but I found it works best for me with air travel.

  2. “LOOK HOW CALM I AM” hahaha
    Love it, great tips! I’m glad flying isn’t as stressful for you anymore!

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      Author

      Hahaha, I must have looked insane! It was the first time I employed the tapping techniques so it was still a bit nerve-racking. So much better now that I have other techniques that help me too.

  3. I had 2 quite bad turbulence incidents, one was going to korea, the other was flying to see family at Christmas a few years back in bad weather. I wouldn’t say i have an overall fear of flying but that definitely freaks me out so I will try your tips next time.

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      Author

      Yes, bad turbulence is what really made me fear air travel. You feel like you have no control. I definitely help my techniques help you on your future travels! Definitely think about it as the same as “car turbulence” where the airplane is fine – just the road is a bit bumpy. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. Great post! Thw straw trick is a new one I will remember. Both my siaters are flight attendants, but my husband still has a huge fear of flying. I think we might just find a solution among all your tips! <3

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      Author

      Thank you! I really hope some of my tips help your husband! Good thing you guys like cruises though, so that helps with getting you out there in the world. I really hope he gets over his fears so you can get to places much farther away. Perhaps he needs to be wearing a parachute to help him out, hehe.

  5. These are all really helpful tips, Crystal! In general, distraction is such a good technique for forgetting about what’s stressing you out! I’ve never heard of EFT, but it’s really interesting! And probably something people do without realising. I love the image of you maniacally tapping your face and screaming, ‘I’M SO CALM RIGHT NOW!’ I know you didn’t say you were shouting, but in my head that’s totally what was happening.

    Although, as someone who is, well, me, I have to say the talking to your cabin mates is literally the reason I hate flying. I loathe when people (including friends and family and husband) speak to me while we’re flying. Like a casual, ‘you okay’ or ‘did you want a snack’ or ‘move so i can pee’ is fine. But talking to people while I fly (also sometimes in the backseat of a car) makes me really sick since I have to turn my head to talk and turning my head while being forced to sit forward for more than a few minutes makes me feel nauseated. So I am 100% that person on planes who if you talk to me, I will say, ‘Yeah, no.’ and turn around and go to sleep. I also have to force myself to sleep through landings since the turbulence is nauseous.

    Dagney

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      Author

      It always makes me laugh when I think about that first time I used tapping while flying. That one trip was the first time back in a plane after my scary turbulent flight that created this monster of fear. The chatting with your cabin mates thing was something I had never thought of before until my flight in 2016. I was sat next to an American couple coming back from Iceland (always fly to the UK from Canada via Iceland. It’s the perfect stop over!) and they were so excited to share their trip adventures and pictures. I was preparing myself to slink back into my seat with my book when the woman kept excitedly showing my pictures. I was trying so hard to focus on her and try to listen to her conversation that it helped calm my fears. It was quite a surprise!

      I wonder why it makes you nauseous! That would be incredibly unpleasant. I wonder if it’s due to motion sickness as well as the awkward way you have to sit while chatting/being a passenger. If I ever see you on a plane I will make sure to just give you a quick wave and find you in the airport after for a chat.

      1. Haha, thank you!!

        Oh, yeah, I definitely have motion sickness. When I was a kid I puked my guts up on every single flight I took. Luckily I outgrew that. But while I could read in the car when I was younger… I can no longer do that. So, you win some, you lose some.

        Iceland has really capitalised on being between Europe & North America! I always recommend stopping over when people fly between the two, as well!

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          Thank goodness! Can you imagine still vomiting on flights today as you are such an avid traveler? How about reading on a plane as an adult?

          Yeah! I am so happy that there are direct flights from Edmonton to Reykjavik! It’s the gateway to Europe, haha!

  6. Great tips Crystal. I especially love how you put [what I think is] the main source of anxiety when it comes to flying [turbulence] into perspective. “It’s just the road that’s a bit bumpy.” I typically do well with flying, but turbulent patches are never fun, I’ll definitely remember that next time–and how can I not give EFT a try?

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      Author

      Yeah! It’s so simple but really helped calm me down a lot! EFT can definitely help with more than just anxiety from flying – give it a try for sure! Thanks for the lovely comment!

  7. These are great tips. My mom always gets super chatty with everyone when she is nervous traveling. She took a plane by herself to come visit me in FL. She hadn’t traveled alone for years, and I am sure that she talked the person sitting next to her ears off. Then, she took a car service to my house (I had sadly come down with a REALLY bad stomach flu). The driver texted me when he found her, and I messaged him how she would probably talk him to death. He’s like: Oh I know; she asked to sit in the front seat, and I can tell you when you got married already LOL. So you are 100% right– talking helps.

    It’s also interesting that you developed your fear of flying later in life (of course, caused by a traumatic incident). I recently noticed that I am getting more and more afraid of heights. I never used to have this problem. Nothing really sparked it, though. It just seems like the more that we travel and do these wild experiences, I find myself on the Eiffel Tower or Cologne Cathedral holding on for my life.

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      Hahaha I love that the driver already knew personal things about you! Your mom is a chatty one! She would be perfect for someone who is scared of flying. The perfect distraction!

      Strange how your fear sort of started out of no where and seems to be getting worse. I WISH I knew how to get over a fear of heights! I have such a strong fear that I can’t even get too close to the railing on the second story of a mall. I 100% feel your pain. I do wonder why it seems to get worse as you age, though! If you ever figure out why I want to know. I wonder if it will get worse the older you get. I hope not! Would you ever sky dive or bungee jump? or have you in the past?

  8. Great article! I’ve developed an anxiety about flying over the last few years so I can relate. I honestly try to avoid it, which can be limiting. Great tips and I love that you got them from the pilot 👨‍✈️ lol!

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      Yeah, he probably thought he would have a nice relaxing flight back to Texas… until I started talking!

  9. Hello Crystal, I wish I had read something like this when I started flying in the early 80’s. I would be physically ill the week before the flight. Now I’m much better and only get nervous when we have constant turbulence. Then I use your stewardess tip. I have convinced myself that they would not be as calm and relaxed looking if they thought we were having a serious problem.

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      Author

      Ah, I am glad that you are doing much better with flying now! The pre-flight stress is awful! Yes – definitely look to the flight attendants! As they fly so much they will remain calm during normal turbulence. Glad my tips will help you with future flights! Safe travels!

  10. I, too, used to love flying. Then I became a mom and for some reason the thrill went out of it. I get airsick really easily so, in addition to getting scared in turbulence, I also feel ill and sometimes get sick. I find that closing my eyes and doing times tables, backwards, in my head can help, but I’m definitely going to try some of your suggestions. Thank you.

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      Ugh, airsickness is just awful! Wouldn’t it be nice to go back and have easy and enjoyable air travel again?! Let me know what works for you! For me, it is definitely a combination of tapping and reading! Best of luck with your future travels!

  11. This is all so me! I had a similar experience flying over the Midwest. I was terrified when we dropped elevation and many people on the plane we’re screaming/freaking out. It didn’t make flying easier, that’s for sure. These tips help me too, especially watching the flight crew and distracting myself. Definitely sharing this one bc I think us nervous flyers need all the help we can get!

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      Author

      Thanks! Yes, flying can be so scary! I had a similar experience with the elevation dropping over the Rocky Mountains and it just seemed to scar me for life! It’s incredible how much of a difference it makes having one of these mechanisms to help cope with your fear. Distraction seems to be the best technique!! Thanks for the share, Tori-Leigh!

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