Do you wrestle with the fear of flying? Perhaps, despite all the reassurances you receive from friends and family, you still can’t calm your nerves when stepping onto a plane. Or you experience a fear of airplanes and simply seeing one is anxiety-provoking. Or maybe just ordering a plane ticket or driving to the airport feels intensely stressful and worrisome.
Worst of all, you may be one of the millions of Americans who can’t altogether avoid flights. Perhaps family and career obligations or both make them necessary. And even if flying isn’t “mandatory” for you, your anxiety and fear could keep you from doing things you’ve always wanted to do. Maybe that means visiting a close friend on the other side of the world or country. It could also involve traveling to regions of the country and world that fascinate and inspire you. Avoidance measures brought on by your fear of flying can hurt your life’s quality and hold back your personal growth.
Regardless of what brings you face to face with your flight anxiety, how do you cope if you’re scared of flying? Here are some ideas to get by with less travel anxiety in the skies and even enjoy the experience more.
Remind Yourself of the Statistics
In her “Psychology Today” article entitled 6 Strategies to Help You Conquer Your Fear of Flying, Amy Morin shares the following:
“We have all seen the unfortunate, breaking news stories of plane crashes when they happen. However, part of the reason these news stories are so big is that plane crashes are so rare. In fact, there is an average of over 100,000 flights on any given day that are successful.”
You know that air travel is reasonably safe. You’ve probably heard many times before that it’s far safer than traveling in an automobile. And yet, you likely don’t feel the same anxiety levels when you get behind the wheel as when you fly.
Your argument could be that traveling on land feels more natural than flying through the air in a metal tube at hundreds of miles per hour while suspended thousands of feet in the air. And I can’t disagree with you on that one. But statistically speaking, you’re probably far safer while flying than when at home taking a nap at your house.
Now, does that guarantee you’ll have no issues while in flight? No. There are few absolute certainties in life. Still, that’s about as close as you can get. Many of us marry knowing that roughly half of all marriages will end in divorce. Would you get on a plane knowing that you’d have a fifty-fifty chance of survival? When flight anxiety creeps in, remember you’re in good hands. You aren’t engaging in a travel mode even close to risky when compared with other options.
Dealing With Anxiety That Can’t Be Reasoned Away
Hopefully, understanding flight safety gives you some peace of mind—it should. At the same time, many struggle to simply reason away their fears. One of the most frustrating aspects about fear-related anxiety is that you can sometimes intellectually understand your fear response is too great, feel frustrated by that fact, and still struggle to have the calm response you so badly desire.
Once you look at the encouraging stats on flight safety and still feel anxious about this travel mode, know that it’s no reason to beat yourself up. Perhaps the stats will calm the severity of your anxiety to some extent. Now, you’ll just have to figure out some other strategies to make it even better.
Assess Your Fear of Flying
Think about your flight anxiety and discuss it with your close friends and family. Work together to figure out what in particular gets you so worked up. Does it happen before the flight, during it, or both? Does your anxiety spike from being around crowds or germs (especially given COVID concerns) or is it the flying part?
By narrowing down what specifically bothers you, you’ll be able to develop a strategy to overcome and manage your flight anxiety. Just sharing about your flight anxiety with family and friends may bring some much-needed relief. And if you can, try flying with someone who isn’t bothered by flight anxiety. This will help you feel calmer and might give you greater insight into staying more relaxed in the future.
Increase Your Flight Exposure
We tend to find situations most anxiety-provoking when first beginning them. For instance, public speaking can initially seem terrifying, but the anxiety involved generally becomes easier to manage the more you talk in front of crowds.
In the same way, you can likely improve your flight anxiety by flying more (as counter-intuitive as that may feel). Perhaps you only occasionally fly. In that case, you can still try some things to get more flying exposure. That could involve reading about flying (you may even want to subscribe to a print or online publication that deals with commercial flying). Befriend a pilot and pick their brain or even visit an airport.
All of this may sound hokey, but the truth is that we tend to get more comfortable with different life scenarios the more we’re involved with them. That’s why so many people without previous social anxiety struggle with transitioning back to an in-person job after working remotely.
Does it mean we’re forever doomed to suffer from social anxiety? No. Most of the time, it just means we need to exercise our social muscles again. That way, these encounters will feel more normal as they did before the pandemic brought drastic changes.
In the same way, going on more flights or becoming familiar with airplanes in some other way will probably make the process much easier. That might be why the guy or gal near you on a flight is snoring away while you fidget!
Your Flight Anxiety Could Be a Phobia
Do you experience an extreme fear of flying that is physical and mental, which feels debilitating? If so, you may struggle with the phobia of flying known as aviophobia.
If you suspect this is the case, the best thing you can do is get in touch with a mental health expert in your region. They will have the necessary tools to determine what to do next.
Maybe Now Isn’t the Right Time
Also, keep in mind that flights are in high demand right now. Some are selling for double the previous price or more. Add to that factor increased crowds and the Delta variant and you may wish to fly at a different time instead if you can.
If you make such a decision, that’s OK. Why someone decides to travel at a certain time or not is often the result of a complex mixture of factors. You just want to be careful you aren’t avoiding something simply because of your fears.
Do You Struggle with the Fear of Planes or Flying? Counseling May Help
Although tips on how to handle flight and plane anxiety are beneficial, they aren’t always enough to healthily manage flying anxiety. Whether you’re dealing with the slow burn of long-term milder anxiety or the incredibly upsetting anxiety of a panic attack or phobia, counseling can often help you work through being afraid of flying.
The OC Relationship Center is here for you and your family as you grow in your mental wellness and personal freedom. Feel reach out to us at your convenience to learn more about our services or schedule an appointment with us