I remember, after September 11, every time I would think about air travel, I would imagine the plane dropping from the sky or a bomb being on the plane. My mind would automatically rush to the most negative possibilities. For me, luckily, these worries lessened, because it was just an aftershock of the terrorist attacks. However, for others, these feelings and worries intensify and can stay forever.
What causes a fear of flying?
People might have experienced a bad flight or heard about bad events or had a close friend or family member die in a tragic place crash. There are many things that can be the reason behind a fear of flying. Many people developed a fear of flying, at least temporarily, after the terrorism attacks of 9/11. Crashes are extremely rare, and so they get a lot of media coverage which instills fear into people.
However, when overcoming your fear of flying, you need to put the “why” aside and focus on the “how.”
Steps to Overcome the Fear of Flying
Get into the right mindset
Building a right mindset about flying can help you lessen your fear of flying. Give yourself the facts. Here’s one fact that can get you going: your chances of dying in a plane crash are about 1 in 11 million. That’s a 0.00001% chance that something will go terribly wrong on your flight. See? You’re feeling better already.
You won’t beat your fear of flying overnight. It takes time and it can become frustrating. You need the determination to beat your fear of flying. Apply the same energy to beat your fear as you would to learning something new like a new sport, instrument, or language. Be prepared to face setbacks and know that you will have the ability to handle them.
What to Do
One of the best ways to start with reducing your fear is to reduce your anxiety behind your fear. And not just anxiety about flying, but your anxiety in general. A good way to begin reducing your anxiety is to meditate daily and to practice techniques. I meditate every single day and now when I board planes I practice my meditation before the flight takes off. It does not matter what kind of meditation you do, as long as you do it daily for at least 5 to 20 minutes.
Know how a plane actually works
In order to help beat your fear of flying, you need to understand how planes are built and how they work. Research the facts about the stuff that gives you anxiety about planes and what could happen. Figure out what your anxiety is actually from. Everybody is different and everyone’s fears of flying are triggered by different things. For example, some individuals may be afraid of turbulence, yet feel completely calm during takeoff, while others may be more concerned about the spread of germs in a confined space. The idea is to recognize that the phobia or fear you have is irrational, but you need to be able to recognize the cause of your fear before you can begin to calm your anxieties.
See how much of the facts that are scaring you are actually true. Why should you do this? So when those fears pop in your head before you are about to take off, you have actual information to prove your fears wrong.
There’s no way to prevent these negative thoughts from popping up into your head, but you can control the way they make you feel.
Take gradual steps
There’s a technique psychologists call the “gradual exposure” technique. It basically means that you expose yourself to the thing you fear–but in small doses. For example, if you have a fear of heights, you wouldn’t go skydiving first to get rid of your fear, but maybe go to the first floor of a tall building. And then keep going higher and higher until, one day you can get to the very top.
It’s the same thing with flying. Start out by going to the airport and hanging out in the terminals (don’t look suspicious for obvious reasons) and do this until it doesn’t stress you out to be there anymore.
Then you can eventually board a plane and then take a flight somewhere nearby.
Visualize being on the plane
When you’re at home, take a couple minutes each day to visualize yourself on the plane. You can even do this while you are meditating. Pretend you are in the airport about to board the plane. Imagine you are sitting on the plane and feel everything that you are feeling when you are sitting in the plane. Practice talking to all the negative and panicky emotions you automatically feel when you are sitting inside the aircraft. This will make it easier when you will actually be sitting inside the airplane and will prepare you to calm yourself when you are in that situation.
You have to keep doing this over and over until you no longer feel threatened or anxious when you visualize yourself on the plane.
Now for the flying part
So, you’ve done all of the above. Now you have to actually go out there and fly. However, you can’t just go out there and get on flights and pray that you won’t have a panic attack. You need to prepare yourself with facts about the plane before boarding. Arrive to your flight on time and get to know the flight attendants and pilot. Spend time learning what actually happens before take-off so you don’t psych yourself out before the plane takes off. Everything will seem more logical and make more sense when you are about to take off.
Also, take flights that will be less stressful like short daytime ones. Once you become more comfortable with these, then you can begin to move onto a longer flight or flights that features things that make you nervous. The idea is to become accustomed to all your old fears so they no longer worry you.
Continue Flying A LOT!!
Don’t stop flying. Keep practicing even if they are short flights. If you stop flying, the skills you built will disappear. And don’t forget to meditate daily. Keeping away your fear of flying takes a lot of work, so use it as an excuse to travel more!
Do you have any other tips for overcoming a fear of flying? Let me know in the comments section below!