Fear of flying, also known as aviophobia or aerophobia, is one of the most common fears that keeps people from chasing their dream of world travel. Fear of flying is also often associated with a fear of heights, a fear of falling, claustrophobia or anxiety related to a lack of personal control. For some people, aerophobia might have been caused by a lack of or bad experience with air travel. But for others, there may be no preceding event leading to their intense fear, meaning the cause is somewhat unexplained. Whatever the reason, there are many things you can do to overcome your fear of flying and live life without limits.
What are you really afraid of?
One way to overcome your fear of flying is by breaking down the fear and re-framing it for what it really is. For example, fear of flying is often comorbid with fear of heights, fear of falling and claustrophobia. So, if you're not keen to jump on a plane, you may want to assess whether your fear is associated with any of these other common phobias. This will help you to determine your trigger so that you can manage your phobia when anxiety levels are low. From here, there are many ways to overcome your fear.
Tactics to overcome your fear of flying
It’s important to remember that everyone is different and may have different triggers or reactions to a common fear. Anxiety is a tricky monster, but the good news is that it can be easy to outsmart with a bit of practice! Here are some tactics that may help you to overcome your fear of flying.
Learn about Aviation Safety
Learning about the mechanisms in place to ensure your safety on an airplane is a great way to enhance your understanding and reduce your anxiety around air travel. Air crafts go through rigorous testing and implement extremely high-tech safety measures to reduce the possibility of harm to passengers and crew. By learning and understanding what goes into these procedures, you may be able to put your mind more at ease when it comes to flying. You could also research things like turbulence, how planes work and how cabin pressurisation works to gain a stronger understanding of the act of flying itself.
Visualisation is a great way to train your brain to overcome fear. Many people find it may feel silly, but over time, practising visualisation is an excellent tool for overcoming fear. In short, visualisation is the act of imagining positive outcomes associated with facing your fear. The idea is to condition your mind to feel more comfortable in fearful situations. Visualisation is most effective when implemented as an ongoing exercise and will gradually strengthen your tolerance to fear over time.
It's not uncommon for your mind to wander when practising visualisation. When this happens, just acknowledge the thought and try to bring your focus back to your visualisation. The more you practise visualisation, the easier it will get, and the greater chance it has to assist you when the time comes to board a plane. If you're unsure where to start, check out our basic visualisation practice below.
Basic Visualisation Practice
To begin your visualisation practice, choose somewhere you are comfortable, where you feel at ease, like a chair in your home.
Close your eyes and take deep breaths.
Slowly and intentionally, begin to imagine yourself taking all the steps you would take to board a plane.
From booking a ticket on your computer, packing your bag, and travelling to the airport. Remember to focus on breathing deeply as you imagine yourself entering the airport, walking through security and boarding the plane. Then, imagine yourself enjoying a comfortable, smooth flight and disembarking at the end to arrive at a beautiful new destination. Visualise success at every step until you can walk yourself through the visualisation without wandering thoughts.
Bring a Distraction
When doing something we aren't 100% comfortable with, like flying, distractions are a great tool to help redirect our focus onto something less scary. Keeping your mind busy with distractions will help you to forget that you're doing something you were afraid to do. For example, having a book to read or a movie to watch can be a great distraction. If you need something that commands more attention, try a colouring book or journal to write in. One tactic that works for some people is focusing on their non-dominant hand. For example, if you are right-handed, try to colour or write with your left hand. This brings your focus to what is in front of you, and can help to distract you from your surroundings.
That's right! Take water on your flight with you to stay hydrated throughout the trip. Whether you're afraid to fly or not, plane travel puts extra strain on our nervous systems. As a result, our bodies require more water than usual to stay hydrated and function comfortably. So, staying hydrated on your flight can relieve some of the pressure and stress on your nervous system. This increases your ability to self-soothe and reduces the potential of spinning into a panic attack.
In the same lane as staying hydrated, keeping yourself feeling refreshed during your flight can help relieve some of the stress and anxiety you feel about flying. Some people find a small (airline-approved) spray bottle with water can help them keep their cool during a flight. Another great refresher is chewing gum – which doubles up as a distraction. Anything that makes you feel calmer and at ease will send you in the right direction towards overcoming your fear of flying.
Be Comfortable and Tune Out
Going the opposite direction from “Distraction”, you could try to just completely tune out for the duration of your flight! An eye mask, ear plugs or headphones can help you to wind down and feel more at peace during a plane trip. This tip is especially helpful for those whose fear of flying is related to claustrophobia since it will help you to ignore your possibly cramped surroundings.
It sounds simple enough, but taking extra steps to ensure your comfort is a great way to help overcome a fear of flying. Wear comfortable clothes that you can freely move in and aren’t too tight, and even pack a small pillow or blanket if you feel they will increase your comfort. Also, pack your carry-on luggage to keep anything you need easily accessible during your flight.
It’s time to stop letting your fear of flying hold you back from experiencing travel the way you’ve always wanted to! Have you tried any of these tips to overcome your fear of flying? Head over to our latest Instagram post and tell us what helped you in the comments!