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6 Tips for Overcoming Fear of Flying

Originally I thought “world travel being within everybody’s reach” in my mission statement referred solely to the financial feasibility of travel until I received a message on Facebook asking about ways to manage anxiety while traveling. I realized that some people may have the means and desire to travel, but are afraid of flying or have anxieties around traveling that put it out of their reach. These are a couple of tips to help you overcome fear of flying or other anxieties brought on by travel.

I have several family members who have a fear of flying that get panic attack symptoms at the slightest sign of turbulence.  If you have a fear of flying, know that you are not alone as it is estimated at up to 40% of Americans have some sort of anxiety when it comes to flying.

How to Overcome fear of flying

Let me qualify that I am not a psychologist, nor do I know a whole lot about the inner workings of the body’s fear and anxiety mechanisms. The following ideas are just my thoughts on how I would try to help a friend or family member overcome this fear of flying.

1. Distract yourself to overcome fear of flying

overcome fear of flying
In-Flight Entertainment Screen

Almost all flights have WiFi and entertainment on them now. Throw on a movie or TV show and get lost in it. There is usually a good selection, so choose something you’ll enjoy and act as if you were in the comfort of your own home! Bring some soothing music with you and use it to relax or meditate yourself into calmness.

2. Learn about how flight works to overcome fear of flying

Hard at Work Making Sure You are safe
Hard at work ensuring you are safe on your next flight

Knowing the basic physics about how a plane flies may help your mind from racing to the image you remember from any movies with severe (unrealistic) airplane turbulence scenes. It’s important to know that the lift created by the airplane wings allow fairly smooth gliding even without the thrust of engines. Commercial airplanes are very meticulously maintained, serviced, and are inspected before and after every flight. If your fear is turbulence, think of it as potholes in the road. Turbulence is just pockets of unsteady air in the otherwise smooth sky.

3. Start with Small trips to overcome fear of flying

About a 2 hour flight from Charlotte to Miami via Google Maps
About a 2 hour flight from Charlotte to Miami via Google Maps

Your first flight when you’re trying to overcome fear of flying shouldn’t be from New York to Abu Dhabi. Start small, take a flight from the Northeast down to Florida, Fly from California over to Las Vegas! These flights between 1 and 3 hours will ease you into becoming more comfortable on airplanes. Once you have a couple of short flights under your belt book some longer flights – east coast to west coast, east coast to Europe, or southeast to Latin America. Keep gradually increasing your flights until you’ve caught the travel bug and are comfortable with flying.

4. There’s an app for that

The Valk App
The Valk App

There is an app called Valk that helps you through the moments that make you anxious while flying. For $3.99 you will always have an “in-flight therapist” to help combat your fear of flying. The app was created by the Valk foundation with scientifically backed methods of combating fears. The foundation boasts a 98% success rate in helping patients overcome their fears.

6. Meditate

Use Headspace app to meditate and manage stress and flight anxiety to overcome fear of flying

Using a guided meditation app such as Headspace is a great way to help overcome fear of flying. Meditation can help with everyday anxieties and even flight anxiety. Headspace has a ton of guided meditation courses centered around managing anxiety and letting go of stress. You can download the Headspace app here.

5. If all else fails, have a drink

Champagne with a view from The Pier Lounge
Champagne with a view from The Pier Lounge

When that beverage cart comes around, grab a glass of wine. The depressant attributes of alcohol with help the Central Nervous System calm down. A calmer mind will lead to less anxiety and a more peaceful flight. At the same time, you should avoid coffee or other drinks with caffeine as they will have the opposite effect on your CNS.

These are just a few tips to help you overcome fear of flying. There are plenty of other resources on the web. If you have overcome your fear of flying let me know how you did it in the comments below!

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  1. A far more helpful app for fear of flying is free at http://www.fearofflying.com/app

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