If you’re afraid of flying, you’re far from alone. In fact, according to FlyFright, nearly a third of Americans are either anxious about flying or afraid to fly. The good news? You don’t have to let these fears prevent you from pursuing your desire to study abroad or to travel the world. Read on for a roundup of five ways to conquer your fear of flying.
1. Fake it ‘til you make it.
While the power of positive thinking won’t keep your plane aloft, it will help keep you calm until you reach your destination.
Advises travel blog ParkSleepFly, “There’s a lot to be said for faking confidence in any situation, but especially when it comes to battling fears and anxieties. If you behave like someone who does not possess a fear of flying, you’ll find yourself much calmer. Pretend that you’re someone who enjoys flying and your brain will be able to register the logic that planes are the safest mode of transportation and that the chances of something catastrophic occurring are minute.”
2. Use your rational mind.
“Statistically speaking, flying is far safer than driving. However, it may feel more dangerous because risk perception is based on more than facts, according to David Ropeik, risk communication instructor at Harvard School of Public Health. Driving affords more personal control, making it feel safer. In addition, plane crashes are catastrophic, killing more people at once, which grabs more attention and makes people more sensitive to them. Car crashes happen every day and spread the loss over time, making their combined effects less noticeable,” explains USA Today.
It’s easy to get carried away by our wildest imagination. One of the simplest ways to banish those runaway thoughts and fears? Arm yourself with facts. For starters, according to statistics shared by FlyFright, there’s a one in 11 million chance of being involved in an airplane accident. Furthermore, of passengers involved in airline accidents, a full 96 percent survive.
Looking for even more facts to keep your irrational mind from running away with itself? Check out GoGetter JetSetter’s 33 facts that make flying ultra-safe.
3. Address your anxiety.
There’s fear and then there’s anxiety. “Anticipatory anxiety is what we experience in anticipation of a fear. It is often the most intense anxiety you will experience during your flight, but it is not an accurate predictor of how you will feel on the flight. It is frequently far greater than what you actually experience,” says the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
We’ve already covered one way to keep anxiety at bay: educating yourself with the facts. But, you can also “force your body into a state of calm” by embracing anxiety management tools. Professor of psychiatry Keith Humphreys told Huffington Post, “Focus on your breathing, put your feet flat on the floor. Smile even if you don’t feel like smiling. Tense your muscles then let them go, then tense them again and repeat. Relax your body and a lot of people will find your emotions will follow.”
4. Choose your seat wisely.
Turbulence can be alarming to even the most seasoned travelers, while a noisy flight can further exacerbate your tension. Choosing a seat at the front of the plane can be a smoother ride. Plus, according to one JetBlue pilot, “There’s less noise when you’re sitting forward on the wings. In most planes, the engines are located under the wings. Sitting in the front of the wing is like being behind a speaker. All the sounds of the engine and the disturbed air are projected away from you.”
Not sure whether to go with an aisle, middle or window seat? Suggests Travel + Leisure, “Figure out which seat makes you feel the most comfortable. Window seats create a sense of place by being able to reference the ground, while aisle seats allow for blissful ignorance. Middle seats give you two armrests to grip.”
While you’re on your way to your seat (and before the plane is in the air), meanwhile, why not ask a flight attendant if you can make a stop at the cockpit? “Meeting the people flying creates trust, as does seeing a functional control panel,” continues Travel + Leisure.
5. Consider professional intervention.
In some cases and despite your best efforts, you may not be able to overcome your fear of flying without help. A number of flying treatments are available aimed at helping fearsome fliers learn to board a plane with peace of mind. These include professional counseling, medication, and hypnosis. There are even online courses available comprising practical tips and actionable insights into coping with your fear of flying.
A few inspirational parting words courtesy of Eleanor Roosevelt? “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” In doing so and taking to the skies, you’ll position yourself for extraordinary experiences -- experiences which you might never otherwise have -- once you’re back on the ground.
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