How to Get Over Your Fear of Flying
Despite how ubiquitous air travel has become, many people still harbor a fear of flying. While some people are able to grin and bear it, others may find it impossible to even board a plane. If you suffer from some level of flight-related anxiety, you know how difficult it is to avoid flying. But what if flying didn’t have to be a scary experience?
By arming yourself with a variety of coping mechanisms, you can learn to conquer your anxiety. To learn how to get over your fear of flying, check out our top tips.
Take the Mystery out of Airplanes
For many people, turbulence and the fear of crashing contribute to the biggest part of their flying-phobia. It can seem totally ridiculous that people rely on giant metal machine to fly through the air; surely it will crash!
To start to get over your fear of flying, take some time to learn about airplanes. Gaining understanding about the physics and engineering that goes into making planes fly can be comforting. To the unlearned observer, it can seem ridiculous that planes can stay airborne, but to those that understand the mechanics, it will make perfect sense.
If you’re less worried about how planes fly than you are about turbulence, there’s a scientific explanation for that as well. Turbulence is caused by shifting winds and is no different from what birds face while flying.
Of course, knowing what causes your plane to shake may not totally take away your fear. You can rest assured, however, knowing that it is nearly impossibly for turbulence to cause a plane to crash. In fact, the amount of turbulence-related plane crashes can be counted on one hand. Planes are built to withstand extreme amounts of stress. The best thing to do when turbulence occurs is to wear your seatbelt and take a few deep breaths, in and out.
Once you understand the science behind what’s going on an airplane, the whole experience can be way less daunting.
Feeling physically comfortable can make emotional comfort easier to achieve. If you can afford it, consider upgrading to first class. The extra luxury and space may make it easier for you to relax or even sleep through your flight.
No matter what class you fly in, you can still maximize your comfort with the right travel accessories. Invest in a quality travel pillow to help you feel comfortable and secure while you fly. Consider other things that make you feel good, like a blanket or fuzzy socks, and bundle those items in your carry-on.
If you’re into music, get some noise-cancelling headphones and a calming soundtrack to accompany you on your flight. Self soothing is a tactic commonly used to help with anxiety, and it can likely help you start to get over your fear of flying.
Educate Yourself About Safety Features
While the chance of something going wrong on an airplane is slim, it can be comforting to feel prepared to deal with a potential emergency. Having a sense of preparedness can help combat the out-of-control feeling that some people deal with while flying.
Before your flight, take some time to research the type of airplane you’ll be on. You can look into the specific safety features that the plane has to keep it flying safely to your destination. Airplanes go through rigorous testing before they’re deemed fit to fly, and it can be a great comfort to know that the plane you’re flying on has already withstood way harsher conditions with no issues.
Since the safety of so many people is at stake, commercial airlines are equipped to deal with any type of emergency. In fact, airplanes are actually able to fly and land if one engine fails. Even if both engines fail, airplanes are still able to land safely. If you’re still not convinced, look into the testing procedures that airplanes have to withstand. The extreme tests of flexibility, altitude, and velocity ensure that every plane can fly safely through all kinds of conditions.
Once you’re on the plane, make sure you listen to the flight attendants’ safety speech and follow along with your info card. Identify emergency exits, flotation devices, and oxygen masks, and read the provided instructions. Arming yourself with knowledge of emergency procedures means that you won’t have to panic if something does go wrong.
Find the Right Seat
Remember riding the bus in grade school? The back of the bus was always a bumpier ride than the front. As it turns out, the same logic applies to airplanes. Seats towards the back of the plane will experience a rockier ride through turbulence than seats towards the front of the plane.
Another thing to think about is where you’d like to sit in the row: aisle, middle, or window. Looking out the window helps some people with their sense of place, but if it just makes you feel worse, sit towards the aisle. Think about which seat suits you best, and make an effort to book the perfect spot.
Booking your seat early is the best way to ensure that you’ll get the kind of seat that will keep you feeling secure.
Talk to the Airplane Staff
One of the most-cited reasons for being afraid of airplanes is a lack of trust in the staff. To help establish a sense of trust, try talking to the staff. Flight attendants are happy to answer any questions you may have, and striking up a conversation creates that human connection needed to start building trust.
Most pilots are happy to have people visit the cockpit before the plane takes off. Before you take your seat, ask a flight attendant if you can take a visit to the front. Chatting with the people flying the plane can help combat some of the fear you’re feeling.
If you’re unable to talk to the pilot, it’s good to remember that all pilots go through rigorous training before they’re allowed to fly a commercial airplane. All commercial pilots must earn an air transport pilot license and log a minimum of 1,500 flight hours before they’re even allowed to apply for a job at a major airline.
Combat Phobia with Logic
Phobias, like the fear of flying, are defined as irrational fears. Arming yourself with rational facts is a tried-and-true way of how to get over your fear of flying. Every time you have an intrusive, scary thought about what could happen while you fly, replace that thought with a fact or statistic that combats that. Reading books or articles by airline professionals is a great way to learn more about how safe flying is, or you can just keep some quick facts on hand. Some good facts to remember include the following:
- You have a 1 in 11,000,000 chance of dying in a plane crash, compared to a 1 in 5,000 chance of dying in a car crash and a 1 in 13,000 chance of getting struck by lightning.
- With modern airplane technology, fatal accidents only occur once in every 2 million flights.
- Even if a plane crash does occur, your chance of survival is 95%.
- There’s approximately one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.
As long as you remind yourself that the chances of an emergency are slim to none, you can fight back against any intrusive thoughts that come your way.
Visit a Therapist
If you just cannot figure out how to get over your fear of flying on your own, all hope is not lost. Consider making an appointment with a counselor or psychologist. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be particularly effective for combatting flying-phobia; it focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns.
If talking through your issues still isn’t enough to assuage your fears, talk to your therapist about seeing a psychiatrist. In very severe cases, a psychiatrist can prescribe an anti-anxiety medicine that you can take before or during your flight that will calm you down.
A popular therapeutic technique for treating anxiety and phobias is called exposure therapy. During exposure therapy, the patient is exposed to the feared object without any danger. With repeated exposures where nothing bad happens, the patients eventually stops associating the thing with danger. With exposure therapy in mind, the method of how to get over your fear of flying may just be taking more flights!
Make Travel Better Today
Whether you’re just a little bit nervous about getting on a plane or have been avoiding planes for years, it’s not too late to start fighting your fear of flying. There are a ton of ways to take the anxiety out of your next flight — and plenty more comfort accessories to make your overall experience better. Make a small step by starting to learn more about airplanes, or take a big leap and talk to a therapist. Whatever you do, you’ll be starting down a path towards fearless flying (and more adventures).