Managing a Fear of Flying

A fear of flying is one of the most common phobias around. There is something about being up at 40000 ft. in a tube, with two complete strangers in control, that can put people on edge. I developed my fear after a flight back from Europe. There was a terrible storm in Toronto and we were circling and being rerouted for hours. It felt like the flight would never end. On my next flight a few months later, I started to panic. I felt a loss of control over the situation, felt trapped and wanted to get off. Since then I have been getting myself very worked up about our upcoming flight to Maui. I didn’t know if I could do it. This time I prepared myself to the nth degree. Here are some tips that may help you with your fear:

1. Distractors

You need to keep your brain occupied so your mind doesn’t have a chance to wander. Having music that is calming or uplifting can keep you in a positive mindset. Games can also avert your focus. I downloaded Candy Crush and that helped distract me. Most airlines have in flight movies and TV shows. I watched The Theory of Everything, which is an inspiring movie that helped put my fear in perspective. I have been on a flight where the Wifi has gone down, so I prepared for that as well. I bought an adult colouring book, which really helped focus my attention on something else.

2. Breathe

People tend to breathe very shallowly when they get anxious, which can make things worse. Carbon dioxide levels drop in the bloodstream and blood supply to the brain decreases. This can make you feel light headed and can lead to fainting. Instead, you should take a deep breath in from your nose and exhale through the mouth slowly. You will notice a change in your anxiety level only after a few breaths.

3. Visualization

My mom gave me this tool when I was a little girl and struggling with pain from an ear infection. She told me to imagine I was in the place that made me happiest. I still do this and it works! On the flight you can imagine that you are arriving safely at your destination and are laying on a beach with a Pina Colada in hand.

4. Dress for Success

When you are anxious your body temperature may fluctuate. You may sweat and feel overheated or you may get the chills. Make sure you have layers on that can be remove if you get too hot. I always bring a blanket and warm socks as I seem to get the chills when I get nervous.

5. Positive Self Talk

I am going to put this one out there as it may help you. By telling yourself that you can do it, or that you have done this before, it may help put your fear in perspective and motivate you to get through it. For me, it just escalates things and gets me thinking too much about the situation.

6. Medicate

My goal is always to manage my fear without the use of medication. If I can’t get things under control, however, I like to have something on hand. Your doctor is the best person to talk to about this as they know your medical history and any possible drug interactions. Benzodiazepines can help calm you, but may also make you feel groggy and inattentive. It is best to try it out before your journey so you are aware of any unforeseen side effects.

Luckily, I was able to get through my flight to Maui by using some of the techniques above. I started to panic a bit at the beginning of the flight but used my deep breathing to calm myself down. I was very focussed on my adult colouring book throughout the flight. It took me 5 hours to colour one page! I was pretty proud of myself for getting through it, as I really had myself worked up the weeks prior to the flight. I am a dentist and work with anxious patients everyday. I can really empathize with them, while giving them tools that have helped me along the way. Hoping my tips have helped you as well.

Happy Travels,

Kira Canadian Girl

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