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Afraid to Fly? Tips on How to Cope

September 24, 2010

I won’t be doing this anytime soon.

I have an almost debilitating fear of deep water. Put me in a pool five feet deep and I’m good, but six feet or more? Fuggheddaboutit. I remember snorkeling in the shallows in St. John and accidentally following a school of silvery fish into deeper water. Talk about panic!

So I can only imagine what it must feel like for people who are terrified of flying. According to this 2007 article from the New York Times, it is estimated that roughly 40 percent of people (nationally? internationally? the article doesn’t say) suffer from at least mild anxiety related to flying with approximately one-sixth of that number suffering from a paralyzing fear of flight.

I used to be much more afraid of flying as well but over the years as I’ve traveled more frequently, my anxiety has diminished. However, I still can’t completely feel at ease while in an aircraft during flight. I understand about Newton’s laws of motion, gravity, aerodynamics, and Bernoulli’s principle and all, but there’s something inherently discomfiting about being miles up in the air with nothing solid to support me from beneath. With time and experience, I’ve developed a list of tips to help ease my anxieties about flying.

  1. Be strategic about your seating. The jury’s still out on this one, but many advocate sitting as close to the front of the plane as possible since that section of the plane is supposedly more stable. Others recommend sitting in a seat over the wings, theorizing that area is the pivot point of the plane and experiences minimal pitch.
  2. Read the safety cards and pay attention to the flight attendant during the safety demonstration. Yup–I actually read the safety cards. If anything were to go wrong, I want to be prepared.
  3. Stay rational. I remind myself that flying is statistically safer than driving.
  4. Use your imagination (but not too much). During turbulence,  I close my eyes and  pretend I’m riding in a car or bus on a bumpy road.
  5. Stay up all night before flying (ostensibly still packing your suitcase). I’m usually so exhausted for my flight I  just conk out the minute I sit down on the plane. With any luck, I don’t wake up until the flight lands.

Got any other recommendations for the rest of us scaredy-cats? I’d love to hear your suggestions for how you cope with your fear of flight. P.S. If you have any tips for how I can get over my aquaphobia, I’d love to hear them too. There’s a whole other world beneath the water I want to explore too!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2010 3:13 pm

    🙂 I usually have a glass of wine. Just a little bit – it relaxes you immediately. Also having something exciting to read helps a lot.

    • September 26, 2010 7:34 pm

      I’d need more than just one glass of wine, LOL!

  2. Tania permalink
    September 26, 2010 6:50 pm

    I used to have a fear of flying until the only job I could find during the world financial crisis was as a flight attendant in the Middle East…. time to confront the fear. I was suprized to learn how much training in safety that flight attendants actually have (2 months training initial and then yearly thereafter – and pretty much only one week of that is about serving customers). So if you think something is wrong, look at the flight attendants expression, if she/he looks calm, things are probably fine.

    My trick to help deal with a fear of flying is on take off… it takes roughly 25 – 35 seconds between take off speed (when you start to feel force) and until the gear of the aircraft goes up. This is the most dangerous part during take off and if anything will go wrong, the probability is that it will happen then (landing excluded). Try counting to 30 from take off speed and if you are ok by the end of that, then you will most likely be ok for the rest of the flight as the dangerous part is over.

    • September 26, 2010 7:24 pm

      Awesome tips, Tania! I always feel most uncomfortable during takeoff so this will help a lot the next time I fly. Safe travels!

  3. October 1, 2010 12:31 am

    I used to be afraid to fly, but I liked going places too much to let it stop me. Some of the things I’ve done that have helped are:

    1. Once you are in your seat and the door is closed, acknowledge that there is nothing you can do at this point. Just sit back, take a deep breath, and let it go. Personally I say a prayer at this time to make my peace, then I just try to —

    2. Look outside and enjoy the scenery. Come on! You’re way up there now and you can see things you’ll never be able to see any other way. Notice the patterns of the country below you and the beauty of the clouds. If that fails, then —

    3. Busy yourself with the things going on in the cabin. Watch a movie, have a drink, read a book, talk to your neighbor (if they want to talk, who knows they may be as skittish as you).

    I hope these ideas can help someone out there, they have helped me.

    • October 1, 2010 4:43 am

      I love your #2 reason…it’s why I always choose a window seat so I can distract myself with what’s going on outside. The planet’s an interesting place at 35,000 feet! ;p

  4. October 12, 2010 8:46 pm

    I also like to look around at people around me – making mental notes of those who are acting sketchy, or those who look like they could help out in a bad situation. For some reason, just taking in my surroundings makes me feel better.

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