4 Great Tips for Beating the Fear of Flying

My battle with the fear of flying had limited my travel options for at least 25 years. This is hugely embarrassing because for most of those years, I was working as an Air Force psychologist. In the past, I resorted to stopping by the airport bar, and ordering a couple glasses of liquid courage just to get me on the plane. Typically, it worked pretty well but I never felt right about it. I always had a nagging fear that I would drink too much and miss my flight, or leave something important behind or do something stupid. What if I got stuck waiting too long for takeoff and the effect wore off? When you’re a worrier like I am, the possibilities of mishaps are endless.I decided to try a trial-and-error method for overcoming my flying phobia using only naturally methods and here are 4 practices that worked:
1. 1-3 Hours Before Takeoff
• Take a walk anywhere that stirs your curiosity. If I can get to the airport early, or get in a workout before leaving home, it helps to reduce the adrenalin surging through my body when it’s time to get on the plane. I think of it as burning off my fear reserves and refueling my pleasure tank. Walking helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the release of feel-good endorphins. This helps balance my emotions when its time to strap in low and tight.2. 30 Mins – 1 Hour Before Takeofff
• Stay occupied until the moment you get in line for boarding. I only allow myself to do things that are fun, like playing games on my phone app or Ipad, texting a friend, or shopping in the airport store. These are all easy to do in the airport. Notice, I didn’t say, “Don’t think about flying.” When you do things you find enjoyable, it will naturally draw your attention away from the fear of getting on the airplane. (For more on why this works, see my post, “Anxiety: It’s About Control”)3. While on the plane before taking off

• Pick at least one flight attendant to focus on. I watch her for signs of fear and I have yet to see any—ever. Then I talk to myself, saying something like, “She/he flies about 70 hours per month and the job requires between 2-14 lift offs/landings per shift. If she is going to reach retirement from this work, it means she expects to live to collect the money, and when it’s all done, she’ll have survived 1000’s of these trips without crashing. The same is true for the pilot.” So my chances of dying on this flight today are lower than getting run over by a car crossing the street in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

4. After take off, as soon as it’s safe to use my portable devices

• The time has come to let go and let God. I turn on the most relaxing music I can get on my MP3 (aka my phone). I prefer Liquid Mind because it was developed by composer, Chuck Wild, as a natural treatment for anxiety. Then I close my eyes, let out a long, slow exhale and enjoy the moment.

If you can practice this 4-step anxiety-relieving ritual on successive trips, you will increase your chances of becoming desensitized to a flying phobia. This is just a fancy way of saying, you won’t feel so scared on a plane anymore.

We are not done yet. Some of you may be surprised to know that there are two parts to this phobia, the fear of flying and the fear of crashing. In my next post I’ll talk about the crashing.

One thought on “4 Great Tips for Beating the Fear of Flying

  1. Capt Tom Bunn LCSW

    For readers who want to dig into the fear of flying problem and resolve it once and for all, take a look at “SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying.” Today it was number 7 on the Amazon Top Ten Self-Help Books.


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