As people start to jet off on holiday, I see a steady stream of clients who struggle with flying. Sometimes this fear is part of an overall anxiety, sometimes a fear of flying is a separate anxiety.
Here are the first few of my top tips:
Know your triggers.
Do you start getting anxious as soon as you buy a ticket, when you get to the gate, or not until you fasten your seat belt? Is your fear about being cooped up with strangers or about enduring take-offs and landings? Just learning to notice the anxiety when it starts can help you cope. It’s easier to blow out a match than to put out a forest fire.
Know some facts.
If you are afraid of crashes, it’s helpful to educate yourself on how planes work and how safe they are. Flying is not only much safer than driving, it’s also less likely to kill you than dogs, lightning or choking on food.
It’s also helpful for people to know that most fears about a dreaded activity, such as flying, happen before the event — meaning the worst symptoms may be over before the plane takes off.
Expect to feel anxious.
When you notice your symptoms, tell yourself, ‘It’s OK I’m feeling this way. I expect to be nervous right now. I can handle this’. It’s better to expect and accept your anxiety than to fight and deny it.
When anxiety starts, learn how to control your breathing. Here’s how: Completely exhale, then take a long, deep breath and hold it to the count of three. Then exhale slowly, saying the word “relax,” under your breath. Rest 15 seconds, while letting your muscles go limp. Repeat two more times.
Once you acknowledge your anxiety, try shifting your attention to a low-effort diversion, such as a magazine, or a funny podcast. Be sure to pack some options in your carry-on bag.
Be careful with alcohol and medication.
While one or two drinks might help some people, too many flyers drink too much, which can actually make you feel more anxious. Some doctors will prescribe a small number of pills, to help anxious flyers through a trip. But those may come with side effects, such as drowsiness and unsteadiness, that may linger after you get off the plane.