Coping with Flight Anxiety
Fear of flying can be paralyzing, but by not getting on a plane, you risk missing out on career advancement, world travel and precious family time. Take these steps to stop fear from getting the best of you.
Flying can be quite stressful, but as with any stressful situation, learning relaxation techniques may help you cope. Try listening to calming music, taking deep, steady breaths and finding something in your line of sight that your eyes can focus on.
Wearing an elastic band around your wrist and snapping it when anxiety starts to creep in is also an effective strategy for many people. The action and consequential sting helps direct your focus away from troubling thoughts.
Of course, this also means that you should avoid anything that increases your anxiety instead of helping you relax. In particular, avoid caffeinated drinks before your flight.
Mental health professionals have the skills to help people work through their fears. Cognitive behavior therapy equips patients to learn new ways of thinking that will take the place of negative, fearful thought processes. This can include practicing a variety of relaxation techniques to use when anxiety flares during a flight, or even when simply thinking about the idea of flying.
Group therapy programs are available in many areas. Together, session participants learn to tackle their fear of flying head-on. Typically, a therapist works with the group on the ground over an extended time, and at the end of the program, the class takes a practice flight together.
Pharmaceuticals aren’t entirely effective for treating a fear of flying, but doctors do prescribe them in some cases. Taking SSRIs or SRNIs on a regular basis may help with anxiety on the plane, but doesn’t do much for anxiety leading up to the flight. Benzodiazepines are another option, but relying on medication takes away the more long-term benefits of learning to cope on a flight without it.
The more you know, the more control you’ll feel you have. First of all, learn how an airplane works and what to expect during a flight. Turbulence isn’t quite as scary when you understand what’s happening. Secondly, read up about airline safety statistics. It’s reassuring to know that flying is statistically safer than driving, which you probably do without hesitation on a regular basis.
Captain Tom Bunn, whose help program, SOAR, guides participants through overcoming their fear of flying, encourages people to meet the airplane pilot at the beginning of their trips. Doing so provides a reminder that he or she is a real person, in whom you can put your trust. It gives you a visual image of the person who is in control during your flight.
Of course, knowledge is power, but that doesn’t mean you have to all the details about absolutely everything. When aircraft incidents do appear in the news, it is best to shield yourself from the details.
Conquering a fear of flying takes time effort and, often, a dose of outside help. But the freedom that you will find when you learn to fly with peace has the potential to open up whole new worlds to you.