Fear of Flying Tips and Suggestions

1. Don’t Hide Your Fear

There is no reason to hide your fear.  Feel free to mention it to the flight attendants and even ask if you can go up to the cockpit and visit with the pilots.  As an airline pilot myself, I can tell you that this is very common.  Ask your pilots questions and mention your anxiety (after all, they are going to be locked up in the cockpit for the next several hours and will probably enjoy the opportunity for conversation).  The pilots and flight attendants will do all that they can to calm your fears, answer your questions, and emphasize your safety.  They really do care and want to help.  Plus, their confidence can be contagious.  Just make sure that you take advantage of this opportunity on the ground as you will not be able to go in to the cockpit once the plane is in flight.  Also, mention your fear to the person sitting next to you.  They can help to calm you and take your mind off the flight.  Remember, there are tons of people with a fear of flying.  You are not alone and the airline crew is more than happy to help.

2. Stay Occupied

Bring some things to keep you busy.  Keeping your mind occupied with a movie or book will help you avoid thinking about the flight.  The best option is to bring a DVD player, laptop, or tablet and to make sure that you download or rent a movie before you head to the airport.  Movies are a more engaging distraction with both video and audio that will take your mind off the flight.  Try to pick an up-beat movie like a comedy.  Avoid scary, suspense, or action movies that might inadvertently increase your anxiety or stress level. If you don’t feel like watching a movie, then try listening to relaxing music.  Also, books and magazines can be helpful.  They are also important for the taxi, takeoff, and landings when electronic devices must be turned off.

3. Positive Thinking

Invariably a negative thought or worry might pop into your head.  That’s normal.  The important thing is not to dwell on it.  You have control over your thoughts.  Try not to think about what could happen.  Negative thoughts will only reinforce your anxiety and potentially make it worse.  It may sound silly, but instead you should imagine yourself doing something that you enjoy.  Like Adam Sandler’s character in Happy Gilmore, go to your “happy place.”  That will help calm your nerves and make you feel a bit better.

4. Be Early

Plan to get to the airport with plenty of time.  You certainly do not need the added stress of possibly being late for your flight.  Give yourself enough time to get through security, use the restroom, buy some food, and sit for a little while.  Flying can be a big ordeal, why make it any harder on yourself?

5. Flex your muscles

If at any point you begin to feel stressed or anxious, tense your muscles.  You could be unconsciously contracting various muscles in your body when you become nervous.  Perhaps, during the flight, you find that you are squeezing the armrest as if it was a piece of rope being used in a tug of war.  Instead, practice tightening certain muscles and then relaxing them.  This will increase your awareness of your own body and enable you to consciously help your body to relax.  Tense your upper or lower body muscles and then release.  This should help to calm you and put your body at ease.

6. Breathe

Often times when we are stressed (from exercise or anxiety) we don’t remember to breathe.  Simply regulating your own breathing has been scientifically proven to relax the body.  If you find yourself getting tense, take a deep breath through your nose and then slowly exhale through your mouth.  Repeat and continue for a couple of minutes until you find yourself relaxing.

7. Go with the flow

When we get nervous, we tend to get warm and even sweat.  Reach up above you and open the air vent.  The cold air flow should help to calm your nerves and cool you down.  It might even cut back on the sweat and help make the rest of your journey dry and more comfortable.

8. Drink up, but cut out Caffeine

Try to avoid coffee and other stimulants.  The effects of caffeine and sugar will only make you restless and increase your anxiety.  Instead, drink lots of water and try to avoid becoming dehydrated.  If need be, have a little alcohol to help calm your nerves.  Make sure you don’t overdo it though.  After all, the cabin is pressurized to an altitude of anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 feet.  That means that it is just like being up in the mountains where the air is thin, so the alcohol will likely affect you more than when you are down on the ground.  And please remember that alcohol should not be combined with any anti-anxiety medications!

9. Educate yourself

Learn what to expect when flying (sights, sounds, etc.)  Go online and try looking at pictures of the airplane cabin that you will be riding on.  You can save a copy on your computer to look at periodically while sitting at home or in a comfortable place.  This will help you familiarize yourself with the airplane environment and ultimately condition your brain and body to make you feel more relaxed once you are actually on the plane.

10. Seek Professional Help

If, after trying all of these suggestions, you still are not relatively comfortable when flying, consult a physician.  There are prescription medications that may help.  Only a doctor will know what medicines and doses are right for you.

-Top Ten Fear of Flying Tips and Suggestions-

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