Relaxation Techniques to Beat Fear of Flying

by guest blogger Psicoline

Of the more than 470 phobias currently known, aerophobia (fear of flying) is especially incapacitating, as it effectively paralyses and can deeply affect the plans and well-being of the sufferer. Known as a “first-world phobia,” it can occur in anyone who flies for business or pleasure, even in those who travel quite frequently.

Avoidance (not doing things so as not to face what we fear) is, on many occasions, the first response of people who suffer from aerophobia, who when at all possible often choose other means of transport. So today we want to talk about certain relaxation techniques that can help you better manage the anxiety you might experience prior to or whilst flying.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can be of great help in the treatment or management of this condition. However, we must first determine if what we suffer from is fear or phobia. If it is fear, we can always address it with prior control of our habits and with relaxation techniques. However, if what we suffer from is a true incapacitating phobia, it is best to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist who can help us with more personalized tools to overcome the problem.

For those who can benefit from relaxation techniques, we’ve chosen two that we consider the best to lower anxiety levels at the most critical moments.

Breath Control

Breathing is an innate, involuntary and automatic act. But when you experience anxiety, your brain thinks that you’re going to need a lot of resources to fight or flee from the peril at hand and begins to activate your body: you become more alert, tense your muscles, and breathe harder so that more oxygen reaches them. Conversely, managing your breathing properly helps you manage this anxiety and lower the levels of body activation. Here are some ideas to put this into practice:

  • Sit up straight in a comfortable position.
  • Place your hands on your abdomen and focus on how it inflates when you inhale and deflates when you exhale; focussing on this movement produces a sense of relaxation.
  • Breathe in through the nose for four seconds, hold it for seven, and breathe out for another eight. This lowers the heart rate, allowing you to enter a state of relaxation. Repeat for approximately 10 minutes. If necessary, you can do it for longer.

The Jacobson Relaxation Technique (Progressive Relaxation)

One of the best known techniques for anxiety and panic-attack control is a mixture of breath control and muscle control. You tense/contract your muscles on purpose, then relax them. Because in a situation of anxiety our muscles contract, with this technique you can exert control over this muscular activation and thus help your body relax. This technique is divided into three phases:

  • First phase: tension and relaxation. You’ll be tensing and relaxing all the muscle groups that go from the face, neck, shoulders, to the abdomen and legs (in this order). The tensioning should last ten to 15 seconds in each of the parts, and the subsequent relaxation should also last 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Second phase: mentally check that each part of your body is relaxed. Otherwise you would repeat the process.
  • Third phase: focus attention on your state and imagine or visualise an image/scene that you find pleasant. This last phase is the most subjective. Each one must find the image/scene that comforts them the most and gives them calm and peace.

It’s mportant to note that you’ll want to rehearse these techniques before putting them into practice in a situation that generates anxiety. Why? Being techniques that you may never have tried, it is important that you know how your body reacts in a non-anxiety situation. This way you’ll be able to see which bodily sensations are of help to you and are part of you in a state of relaxation, in order to be able to differentiate them and not be frightened in that moment of confusion that anxiety can generate.