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Exactly how do you manage fear of flying?
Flying is the quickest and easiest mode of transport between countries. However, almost one in six people in the UK are afraid of flying. Why is this the case, and how do we cope with this anxiety?
For many of us, flying has become a necessity as we jet between nations around the world to study, work, go on holiday and meet new people. Even though approximately 10 000 planes safely transport their passengers around the world, many of us feel sick just thinking about getting onto a plane. This fear ranges from having the jitters when boarding the aircraft to a full-blown panic and anxiety attack that puts you off from arranging any flights forever, even if that means lost opportunities.
Nonetheless, anxiety should never block us from enjoying life. So listed here are some tips on how to manage your fear of flying before and during a flight. Be mindful that we're all different, so make sure you experiment a little and try to find the strategy cocktail that actually works best for you:
1. Try to understand.
Fear of flying, or aviophobia, is characterized by extreme avoidance of planes, or anything at all connected with flying, including airports. People with severe aviophobia might arrange their life around avoiding flying. Fearful fliers may possibly be afraid of such things as the noises and sensations associated with take-off or landing and queasy sensations that usually comes with sudden or prolonged turbulence.
It is important to discover what causes your particular flight-related anxiety in order to do something to anticipate it. So a good understanding of planes, how they work, what causes the sounds you hear throughout the flight, why we encounter physiological sensations such as blocked ears and also how the crew are trained for their job will really help to ground the awareness that you are in good, safe hands.
2. Learn about your fear and your flight.
If you can afford to, consider booking a place on a course that tackles fear of flying, such as hypnotherapy. There are also are plenty of resources both off and online where you can educate yourself about flying. Videos can be a good place to get started, such as videos featuring commercial airline pilots explaining what happens during take-off and landing, how turbulence, albeit unpleasant, is safe and what is really happening when the seatbelt sign is switched on.
Also, think about what other causes of anxiety your aviophobia might be associated with. Such underlying causes include fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of crowds (agoraphobia), fear of heights (acrophobia), or the anxiety of not being in control. Treating these anxieties and knowing they exist will equip you to deal with them better on a plane.
3. Focus on managing what you can.
Attempt to control issues that are within your grasp by eliminating any associated sources of stress as much as you can. For example, be on time since you don't need to be anxious about missing your flight as well as being anxious about being on that same flight. So make sure you have lots of time to pack your luggage and get to the airport to avoid last minute hitches. Wear comfortable clothes, ensure you have any medication that you need with you and remember to stay hydrated on the plane.
Being able to pre-empt your anxiety is important so that you can avoid adding to your general sense of unease. Research has shown that high-altitude hypoxia, a minor decrease in oxygen supply, might naturally add to a sense of anxiety, and so while you're in no danger at all, you may feel unease as if you were under in danger. One study suggests that some fearful fliers might misinterpret this physiological effect for aviophobia, as their brains are trying to make sense of the feeling of anxiety by ascribing to it the most immediately available cause: flying.
So, anxiety can be misleading therefore, it is vital to not allow it to take control and drive you into a panic attack. This, however, does not necessarily mean rejecting your anxiety and trying to act as if it doesn't exist at all.
4. Embrace your fear.
When fear starts to mount, instead of pushing it away, begin by accepting it. Psychologists has observed that the more you try to pretend it isn't there or push it away, the worse the fear becomes ultimately leading you to become afraid of being afraid and fixing the anxiety in a vicious cycle. Try a visualisation exercise whereby you mentally pack anxiety into an imagined carry-on bag, which you can store above and below you on the flight, the idea being that 'the anxiety is with me, but I bring it with me and still travel wherever I want’. Another recent study also reports that individuals who accept their negative emotions are less likely to develop mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
5. Just breathe.
When the feeling that anxiety is emerging, immediately take steps to prevent it from intensifying. First, act directly on the physiological symptoms, such as the racing pulse and shallow breathing, which can in turn, make you feel sick and faint. Acting on the physical signs can also trick your mind into feeling more at ease, so learn some mindful breathing exercises. Breathing exercises help to relax your body and put your mind at ease. Hypnotherapy can help to bring your conscious attention to your body, how it feels and to then focus on breathing normally. When your mind attempts to meander away to fearful situations, bring your attention back to your breathing, allowing you to become calmer.
Box breathing is another useful technique. You take and hold deep breaths to enable your pulse to slow down and alleviate your sense of fear. To do this you should inhale slowly through the nose to a count of 4, hold that breath for another 4 seconds, and then slowly exhale to a count of 4.
6. Remember why you're doing this.
Studies have suggested that we overcome anxiety through reappraisal and that there are fewer degrees of separation between anxiety and excitement than between anxiety and calmness. So it's much easier to trick your mind into thinking that your racing heart is caused by your enthusiasm at the thought of getting to your destination and not by anxiety.
Try to think about the positive reasons for boarding the flight such as seeing loved ones or of all the fun you will have at your destination. Latching onto theses happy outcomes and knowing that a few unsettled hours separate you from this will help to minimise the fear.
7. Keep going!
Most important of all, after you have taken the steps to face your fear, book that flight and board it…you must not stop at that first achievement either. Repeat, repeat, repeat; with each and every new flight, you will be normalizing the event and avoiding anxiety from controlling your life choices.
This desensitisation is a crucial step to beating any persistent fear, value each flight since it will allow you to make flying a routine occurrence that doesn't warrant feeling any anxiety. So, if you still feel a little shaken from your latest encounter on board an aeroplane, try not to let it stop you from planning your next flight!
Finally, overcoming fear with knowledge and support isn't always easy but remember to enjoy the good moments and don't let the bad moments take you back to square one.
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