[According to Anxiety UK, a fear of flying or “aerophobia” is an excessive worry about air travel which is believed to affect 1 in 10 people, however some studies suggest that the proportion is much higher. Here are my tip tips to feeling calm in the sky, from experience]
When I was younger, I adored flying. I loved the “holiday feeling” of getting up early to go to the airport and catch a flight. I would nestle in close to the window and feel a rush of excitement as the wheels raced along the runway as we jetted up, up and away. But sometime in 2014, onboard a short flight from Belfast to London, I noticed something was wrong. The plane was shaking with turbelance, and I realised I did not like it. At all.
By late 2016, I was a full on basket case. I became convinced that the plane would drop out of the sky at any moment, and couldn’t understand why no one else sitting around me was in the midst of a deep panic attack every time the plane would shake. After a particularly bad incident in which I ended up sobbing hysterically into the arms of an utterly confused Japanese passenger for an entire flight, I knew something had to give.
1.Learn how a plane actually works
OK, so maybe you know that there is no such thing as a left phalange. But for most of us, the actual physics of how a plane really gets off the ground and stays up in the sky remains a mystery. So when we are already anxious and hear the ominious “bong” of the intercom, our mind does an incredibly unhelpful job of filling in the gaps for us. Before we know it, we’re in the middle of our very own horror film (and sadly not the type where we are Tom Cruise and we manage to crash-land the plane ourselves).
The more you learn about how flying works, the less convincing your catatrophic thinking will be. Why not watch this short video of a nice pilot chap who uses a precious little toy plane to myth-bust and explain concepts like thrust, turbulence and banking.
2. Stop traumatising yourself on the internet
Being afraid of flying can often leave us feeling like there’s something wrong with us. Therefore, it can be satisfying to go online and read reports of plane crashes to gain a sense of validation that our fear is justified. Resist the temptation, my friends. It’s like driving down a cul – de – sac in a tiny Nissan Micra at 70 miles per hour. IT JUST ISN’T GOING TO END WELL. YouTube comments boards and chat room where scared people congregate together can be breeding grounds for negativity. If you must, watch positive youtube videos of how others overcame their fear and remember, the only reason news outlets sensationalise plane crashes so much is because they are so darn rare.
3. Avoid masking your fear with drugs and alcohol
When I was still deathly afraid of flying, I tried everything I could to numb the negative symptoms that came with the panic attacks. At the start, I just made sure I had a few drinks before I got on the plane. Then I asked my doctor to prescribe me special medication to calm me down. But none of this got to the root cause of my fear, and although taking substances like this did make me feel better, I was left with a hollow sense that I was cheating myself. So my advice is, if you want to tackle your fear head on, lose the safety blankets. Instead, arm yourself with tips and techniques to alleviate anxiety calm yourself naturally when panic strikes in the air. Or, if you can, go to a one day course which will teach you these techniques. I tried the easyjet fear of flying course, but there are free webinars and youtube videos if you don’t fancy splashing the cash.
4. Make flying fun again
So we can’t all fly first class in the lap of luxury like popular YouTube vlogger and general life enthuiast, Casey Neistat. Personally, when I fly, I’m usually swished in between a crying baby and a Stag Do on a Ryanair flight, which is akin to hell on earth before I’ve even thought about being afraid. But it is all about positivity, folks. So make sure you can do all in your power to make the experience as stress – free as you can. Ensure you have left enough time to get to the airport. Buy yourself a treat in duty free. Wear your most comfortable clothes, bring your favourite snacks and call family and friends before and after your flight for support. And finally, ignore the well – worn life advice and focus on the destination, rather than the journey.