While many of us spend the summer excitedly counting down the seconds until we down tools, fire up the out of office and head to warmer climes for a fortnight, for those with a flying phobia the holiday countdown can be an anxious time.
flying without fear is a possibility, even for the most nervous among us. We’ve scoured the internet and grilled the psychologists to bring you the 10 most effective ways to make you a comfortable, and calm, flyer.
Preparation is key
Each fearful flyer has their own set of tools to get through a flight. Some sit by the window and stare out like a rigid zombie, others like to distract themselves with films, music and games. Whatever your tools, make sure you have everything prepared in advance. Fill up your iPad with TV shows you want to watch (remember to avoid films that involve stressful events).
Cram your bag with fun things to distract yourself; crosswords, great books and a head pillow and eye mask.
And try to remove any stress triggers from the process of flying. So that means leaving plenty of time to get to the airport, keeping papers and passport easily accessible for check in, removing bottles of liquid from your bag and allowing yourself time to relax at the airport, that doesn’t mean hitting the bar for a few swift vodkas.
Chatting to your partner of your children is a good way to distract yourself from focussing over unusual noises.
Michael Salem, the author of the book Brave Flyer: How to End Your Fear of Flying, says ‘Many fearful flyers become hyper listeners during the flight because their brain is programmed to believe there will be some sort of life-threatening problem and will try to prove it by listening for the faintest of sounds.
So, if possible, while in flight, distract yourself from imagining worst-case scenarios and listening out for every suspicious noise by chatting to your family member or listening to calming music or a meditation app such as Calm (be sure to ensure it is accessible in ‘Flight’ mode).
Choose your seat, but don’t panic if you can’t
It is true that turbulence is usually greater at the back of the plane, so ask for a seat as close to the front of the plane as you can. However, if you haven’t been able to reserve a front of flight seat don’t worry – simply remind yourself if you do hit turbulence that your seat means you feel the effects a little more and breathe slowly and deeply to try and steady your nerves.
Coping with turbulence, remember it’s ‘just a road in the air’
A bumpy flight is a tricky experience for a nervous flyer and adds to the level of worry before the next flight. But once you understand what causes it, you’ll understand that turbulence is a normal part of flying and not something to fear.
When a plane flies through an area of low pressure to high pressure (or vice versa), it causes a “bump” in the ride. These bumps aren’t dangerous, but pilots intentionally navigate away from strong turbulence to ensure the smoothest possible ride and the least anxiety for passengers. Another fact to keep in mind: Modern planes are designed to handle much more intensive turbulence than they would ever encounter.
Finally, a mantra that many nervous flyers repeat to themselves, ‘it’s just a road in the air’. Just like on a car or train journey, bumps and jostles are nothing to fear. Michael Salem says ‘Another good fact to remember is the seat belt light goes on because the pilot does not want you to fall on the guy next to you, not because there is any type of flight risk.’
Face the facts
This only works for some, but try to remind yourself that air travel is the second safest mode of transportation in the world. The chances of being in an accident are about one in 11 million – it’s more likely you will win the lottery! ( I find checking out this live tracker, and seeing just how many flights are in the air at any one time, is super helpful to calm nerves)
Think yourself calm
Many nervous flyers use another trick for overcoming anxiety; picturing and focusing the destination. This is, essentially, a distraction mechanism but it can help. Try and focus on where you are going, what you will do when you get there, how it will feel when you on your holiday.
Allow yourself a drink, in moderation
Mixing alcohol and calming medication is NEVER a good idea, although for some it is the only way to get on the plane in the first place.
If a glass of wine helps calm your nerves then there is no evidence to say you should avoid alcohol but remember that excessive drinking, or combining alcohol with any medication, may make you jittery, dehydrated and anxious. Limit yourself to two drinks, tops, and avoid mixing drink and any prescription pills. It may even result in you not being allowed to fly due to becoming too disorientated.
Before and during the flight, it’s important to keep blood sugar levels up. Stick to water and juices to keep hydrated and remember to eat little and often to maintain your energy, which can help control anxiety levels. Rest if you can, though sleep is not essential.”
Remember That Panic Will Pass
It’s important to “recognize that panic will pass,” says Dr. Wehrenberg. “A panic attack [usually] doesn’t last for more than a few minutes. Then it wanes. So it’s not going to last the whole trip. If you feel afraid of losing control and succumbing to fear during the flight, remind yourself that even a full-on panic attack is only a temporary affliction; you’ll get through it.
Know When It’s Time to Seek Professional Help
“This is going to sound a little strange but if taking an anti-anxiety drug makes it possible for you to fly without discomfort, then you probably can get by with that. There are a number of people who are nervous flyers who get by with benzodiazepines from their doctor and that works for them.”
How do you know when it’s time to make an appointment with a medical professional? If you’re losing sleep, feeling sick with anxiety, or avoiding travel at the expense of your own or other people’s convenience,” then you should speak with a doctor or a mental-health professional for guidance.
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