Psychiatrists that treat such disorders generally categorize fear of flying as an anxiety issue. In fact, it often stems from something more specific than just boarding a plane, such as fear of small spaces (claustrophobia), heights, turbulence, crashing, terrorists, or traveling over water. If you can pinpoint exactly what you’re afraid of, it’s easier to rationalize the situation which helps to remain calm.
If you’re not a fan of the friendly skies, follow these helpful tips:
- Know what to expect. For many fearful fliers, learning the basics of how airplanes work can go a long way toward alleviating their anxiety. For instance, understanding how a plane can continue to fly even if an engine fails can help you feel less concerned about your aircraft malfunctioning.
- Familiarize yourself with your plane. Getting to know what your plane looks like can make it seem a little less scary. This fearful flier actually puts a picture of the plane's cabin on her computer's desktop; by the time her flight rolls around, the image is familiar, not scary.
- Choose an aisle seat. Most airlines and booking engines allow you to request a seat assignment when you book your flight. Request an aisle seat, particularly if you're prone to claustrophobia; you'll feel less hemmed in by other people, and you'll be able to get up and move around the cabin more easily.
- Monitor your media intake. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's worth mentioning: avoid plane disaster movies, news coverage of plane crashes or other scary media images. Remember that the vast majority of flights arrive safely, but only the problem flights make the news. Don't let that skew your impressions of flying.
- Think positive. In the days leading up to your flight, it’s easy to let the anxiety build. Instead, try to focus on more positive things, like all the fun things you'll do once you reach your destination.
- Don't rush. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport before your flight is scheduled to depart. Rushing to the gate and worrying about missing your plane will only add to your anxiety.
- Wait for your flight in an airline lounge. Most airlines have private airport lounges that are quiet, luxurious oases away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the airport. While they're usually reserved for club members or elite fliers, you can often purchase a day pass for a minimal fee, which may be a small price to pay for a soothing place to relax and prepare for your flight. Or, just find a comfortable seat at the restaurant or bar nearest to your gate.
- Medicate. Popping a sleeping or anti-anxiety pill prior to boarding can work wonders to help you relax. Alcohol can do the same trick as long is it not combined with anti-anxiety medications. Just please remember to drink in moderation, overdoing can potentially work against you in a variety of ways.
- Find a distraction. Read a book or magazine, work on your laptop, or strap on your headphones and listen to some soothing music to help to take your mind off flying.
- Remind yourself who's in charge. Many fearful fliers are bothered by their perceived lack of control, since they have no influence over the safety or performance of the aircraft. Try to remain calm by reminding yourself that you made the decision to fly, that you can decide how you respond to the experience, and that experts with years of training are the ones in control.
- Breathe. Breathing is an instant stress reliever. As anxiety increases your breathing becomes shallow so breathe slowly and deeply for a count of 5 or 10.
If all else fails, get professional help. Licensed therapists are trained to help people overcome anxiety and reportedly, success rates are high.
Tips courtesy of the independenttraveler.com.
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