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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

For some new (even seasoned) travellers, flying is the last think they want to do. It’s an honest anxiety if you’re not used to travelling thousands of feet up in the air. If you have a fear of flying, here are some tips to help you overcome it before your next trip.

It’s an entirely common fear, around 5% of people suffer from at least some anxiety at the thought of flying and it’s usually not just the flying part but the combination of a number of different fears accumulating that can cause a panic attack in the air: fear of small spaces, fear of germs, fear of heights, fear of accidents, fear of crowds, etc. If you’re booking cheap flights for your next holiday abroad or you need to travel for business, here are some ways to help you through the flying process.

Learn to trust the industry

Airplane cockpit

If you have a hard time believing that air travel is entirely safe then the first thing you should do is some research. Check out what kind of programs pilots need to complete before being allowed to fly commercial passenger flights, how airplanes actually work, the role of air traffic controllers, how weather systems affect flights and why causes turbulence.

This information will help you to stop blaming the airline industry for your fears and let you really take hold of them.

Accept your fear

Did you know that if you try to suppress your anxiety that it will make it even worse? Instead of struggling against your symptoms it’s better to use a mantra phrase like, “It’s alright that I feel nervous. I can handle it.” But you should believe it, rather than just repeat it.

Breathe, don’t forget to breathe!

It’s not complicated but so many people forget to do it when they get all uptight and worried. In, out, in out… Simple breathing skills will help you calm your mind and your body. Quick breathing and hyperventilating can cause dizziness, lump in the throat, nausea, confusion, even fainting so it’s really important you slow it down and breathe easy. Plus, the more oxygen your body receives, the more your muscles will relax.

Relax

View from above

This brings us to the next step. If you can effectively relax your muscles then your anxiety will slip away. Try the 10-second grip as a way to get your muscles to calm. Grab the armrests of your chair and squeeze them as hard as you can for 10 seconds. Tense your arm, leg and stomach muscles too. Keep holding and remember to breathe while doing it.

After 10 seconds, let go and calmly breathe for a few seconds. Repeat this two more times (three times total) and then shake out your arms and legs, loosen your neck by letting it roll back and forth a few times with your chin on your chest. Close your eyes for 30 seconds and concentrate on breathing softly and slowly (but not too slow!).

Get comfortable

These tips are valuable for all travellers getting ready to fly, not just those with a fear of it. Reduce your caffeine and sugar intake the day before you are planning to fly. Instead drink lots of fruit juices and water. Cabin air is very dry and you can get dehydrated very quickly. Even if you feel like downing a stiff one before your flight, don’t drink any alcohol.

Pack things to do while on the plane: a good book, sudoku puzzles or crosswords, mp3 player and some snacks. Make sure you get to the airport early so that you don’t start your trip off rushed! Once you’re through security, make your way slowly to the gate. As you board take a peek into the cockpit. Once you’re up in the air then you can pull out your book or puzzles, the key here is to occupy your mind.

Were you scared the first time you flew in an airplane? How did you cope?

Img: GilbertoFilho, utnephoto.com, as737700 / Flickr cc.

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