Conquering Your Fear of Flying

Many people have fears and anxieties when it comes to flying, which can be stressful when it can’t be avoided. Whether its for business, a big family trip, or to get to your dream destination, these expert tips can help ease some of that stress so that you can enjoy your voyage.

Learn How a Plane Works

One main reason why people have fears of flying is that they simply don’t understand how a plane actually works, achieves flight, and keeps itself from falling out of the sky. Arming yourself with knowledge about the mechanics and science behind what makes a plane fly, and the general safeness of flying, can help put you at ease. Airplanes are one of the safest modes of transportation. Your car has a better chance of crashing on the way to the airport than a plane does, and you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than dying as a result of a plane crash. Airplanes go through very thorough, regular maintenance and upkeep to make sure that everything is working fine. For every hour it is in flight, a plane goes through 11 hours of maintenance. Many people are also concerned about what would happen if one of the engines malfunctioned, but knowing that a plane can continue to fly successfully in the event that something goes wrong with an engine can take away those fears.

Understanding Turbulence

Turbulence happens when a plane moves rapidly from one air current to another. Contrary to popular belief, turbulence doesn’t happen when you “hit an air pocket.” There’s not hole in the air, and the plane won’t fall down out of the sky. Because of regulations, airplanes are built to withstand more stress than it actually gets during flight. Most planes can handle up to 5 G’s of turbulence, and every plane is built to hold up to at least 2.5 G’s. G-forces vary depending on the type of turbulence you’re getting, but is generally as low at .8 G’s and severe turbulence normally doesn’t go higher than 1.6 G’s. Because passengers are used to smooth, straight, and level travel, turbulence can make some think there is something wrong, but a plane doesn’t necessarily have to travel in a straight line at a constant altitude and speed to fly. Even though turbulent travel might be uncomfortable, its erratic flight doesn’t pose a real safety issue to the plane itself. Planes are equipped with radars to help pilots avoid bad weather or turbulent air currents, and keeping your seatbelt on at all times will help keep you safe in your seat and make sure you aren’t thrown out of it in the event that you do encounter strong turbulence.

Manage Your Anxiety

During flight, if you hit a bump or hear something unusual, even if you are not in danger, your brain can interpret the sudden movement or sound as something to panic about and will send out the signals that cause anxiety and the fight-or-flight feelings you get when you are in danger. If you believe that you are in danger, your body will keep pumping out those signals, your anxiety won’t go away, and you could go into a panic. It’s not easy to tell your brain that you’re actually not in danger since the part of the brain responsible for panic doesn’t understand language. The best way to keep yourself from going into unnecessary distress is to help your body feel that there is no danger. Stop fighting against the turbulence and just let it happen. If you notice that your body has tensed up at any time during flight, try to relax, sink into your seat, and breath normally. Closing your eyes can help, and imaging yourself on the ground enjoying your destination can help distract your brain from whatever it is that is causing you stress. Showing our brain that you are not in danger will shut it down from producing the fight-or-flight chemicals and help you calm down.

Avoid Alcohol and Coffee

As tempting as alcohol can be to calm you down during your flight, in the long run, it could actually make you feel more anxious and less in control and cause more stress. Alcohol and coffee can also make you feel dehydrated and uncomfortable during your flight, which won’t help if you’re trying to put yourself at ease. While a glass of wine or a cup of coffee is okay, try not to overdo it, and avoid drinking as a way to self medicate your anxieties.

Bring Diversions

Bring something to keep your mind occupied during your flight. Letting your mind wander and worry about your flight might cause you to think about every little thing that could go wrong, and that could cause you to panic easier. Finding different ways to distract your mind from your fears and anxieties can not only help keep you calm, but it could help your flight go by quicker. Magazines, downloaded episodes of your favorite show, games to play, a book you’ve been meaning to read, or even a coloring book made for anxiety relief can help you pass the time. If you’re traveling alone, striking up conversation with the person next to you will help distract you and you get the added bonus of feeling less alone during your flight. Treat yourself to a snack or a trashy gossip magazine. If you’re too distracted to read a novel, reading short snippets about celebrities’ lives might be what you need to keep your mind from wandering too far into your fears.

As scary as flying can be, what lies at the end of your journey, whether it’s loved ones, an amazing destination, or a great time, can make the trip totally worth it.