Accept how you’re feeling
The first step in overcoming a fear of flying is to recognise the fear. “Don’t fight it,” advises Dr Ian Shulman, a psychologist specialising in cognitive therapy. “Allow yourself to feel it. If you can go into a situation that scares you and say to yourself, ‘It’s okay to be scared even though I’m not comfortable,’ – that doesn’t trip off your body’s internal alarm system as much and it’s easier to cope.” By telling yourself that “yes this is happening, and I’ll go with it,” your brain tends to calm down – and as a result, the uncomfortable tightness in your throat, shallow breathing, and upset stomach will loosen their grip on you.
Take a fear of flying course
Before you consider booking a trip, sign up for a course that can help unravel your fear of flying. Shulman runs seminars on how to bust your flying phobia. “These programs are very useful because you get to see first-hand that there are lots of other people with similar experiences and that helps you feel like you’re not alone and what you’re going through isn’t strange,” says Shulman. Fear of flying programs look at how and why fear develops, offer calming techniques and insight into how a plane works so that nervous flyers can gain an understanding of what they’re experiencing when they hear strange noises or feel turbulence.
Avoid anxious thinking patterns
“People prone to anxiety tend to make two thinking errors. The first is that they exaggerate the dangerousness of the situation they are in, and the second is that they minimise their ability to cope with that danger,” says Shulman. “They’ll be thinking of the future and what could happen, and start to sweat, shake and panic.” If you’re feeling anxious on the plane, it helps to realise that you’re actually safe and not really in any danger. “The symptoms are just your body’s way of reacting to your thoughts of what might happen,” says Shulman. Realising that you’re okay and more than able to cope will help to squash anxious thought patterns.