Do you want to take an exotic vacation – but resist due to the fact that you need an airplane to get there? Are you accepting of the fact that you are limited to a life that only takes you as far as a boat, train or automobile can take you?
According to statistics out of the University of Amsterdam, around 40% of the population experiences some sort of anxiety when it comes to taking to the skies to transport around the world. Of this 40%, around 19% are so afraid of flying that they would be considered to have a flying phobia. In fact, there are millions upon millions of people in this world, desire reassurance that flying is one of the safest modes of travel, would not board an airplane for any reason altogether.
The fear of flying, according to psychotherapists is one that involves the complete loss of control that people feel while they are in the air. (And sometimes claustrophobia) When people are on the ground, or in a boat or car, they feel like they have more control over what happens, and more room for error, even with the per person deaths by automobiles 70 times higher annually, than those caused by airplane accidents. And even though these intelligent and grounded people realize that the possibility of being killed in their vehicle is higher than it is by being in an airplane, the feeling of being out of control (and miles high in the sky) causes irrational fear to set in. And making matters worse for people who are afraid to fly is the awareness of terrorism issues worldwide that keeps them from wanting to set foot inside an airplane. After 9/11, it was estimated that there were ten times as many people who suffered from flying anxiety and fear than there were before the twin towers catastrophe.
The question is how to cure your fear of flying? Or can it be cured at all? If you are afraid to take to the skies, are you just resigned to a life that offers little travel?
Experts believe that the fear of flying can be cured. Luckily, there are quite a few classes and interactive help opportunities that would be travelers can choose from to help them cure their phobia. In fact, many of larger United States airports offer fear of flying classes and workshops for free or for minimal fees throughout the year to help increase their customer base. Airlines also offer these classes, which normally involve one-day workshops, to help people overcome their fears.
Additionally, there are a multitude of programs available online and with pilots such as the SOAR program that are designed to help people get over their fear of taking flight. Many of these programs are run by pilots and flight professionals and involve things such as meditation, positive imagery, and visualization to help people overcome their fear. According to the SOAR’s program director, Captain Tom Bunn – the fear of flying is simply about letting go of control. He also advises people who are afraid to fly to meet the pilot of the flight before going on a trip, which makes the idea of flying, seem less surreal. When you can connect yourself to the person who will be flying the plane, you realize that there is another real, conscious, and conscientious person in charge of the plan who has the same desired outcome as you do.
Additionally, if you want to fly and fearful or have anxiety, it is important to deal with your stress beforehand. In fact, anxiety or panic attacks on an airplane can be a disaster for all the passengers on the plane, and tend to be contagious. The last thing a pilot or flight crew wants is a bunch of panicked flyers. The following steps are things you can do at home to help curtail your flying phobia.
- Meditation. Take to your inner guidance to help calm you down and get rid of pre-flight jitters. You can find specific meditations online, on YouTube or Itunes that can help you deal with control issues and managing stress. In fact, taking headphones and one of these guided meditations with you is a good way to keep you calm once you are in flight.
- Be reasonable. Look at statistics and realize that air travel is safe. Remind yourself of this by setting this as mantra in your mind. Every time you revert to thoughts about the dangers of air travel, tell yourself “Air travel is perfectly safe. I am safe.” The more you do this, the more you will be able to control stress hormones that may quickly get the best of you in the air.
- Stay distracted. If you are planning a flight, then make sure that you bring enough things to keep you busy during the flight. Magazine, books, laptops, your music player, needlepoint, or anything else that will keep your mind occupied can help you make it through a flight. There are also some Apps from the App store for droids and I-phones that help you to manage stress while in flight.
- Anxiety medication. Your doctor may be able to prescribe you something such as Xanax that may help you alleviate the in flight jitters and avoid an all out panic attack during flight. That being said, experts suggest staying away from sleeping medicines that can actually increase your heart rate and make you feel more vulnerable than had you not taken them.
- Start on the ground. If you have never set in an airplane, then the last thing you need to do is take off on a 16-hour flight across the world. First, get used to an airplane on the ground by visiting an airport or museum. Secondly, take a short flight – to help build up your tolerance to air travel. 45 minutes to an hour to start with.
- Realize that you will not reach your life goals unless you fly. If you truly want to visit certain parts of the world then flying is necessary. Your fear of flying is no more intrusive than your fear of spiders, or any fear that you may have. Regardless of how high your level of fear is, from simple anxiety to all out phobia, it is important to learn to let it go so you won’t live with regrets. It may take a visit with a counselor to help you get over it, but the benefits will definitely be in your favor.
The reality is that it is likely every person experiences some anxiety when flying, or doing anything new for that matter. However, if your fear of flying is intruding on your life goals and desires – then it is in your best interest to learn how to let it go.