4 Strategies for Overcoming Your Fear & Enjoying Your Flight

03/06/2024
by David Lanzas

As we´ve written about extensively on this blog, if you´re a fearful or simply nervous flyer, there are ways to relieve – and even eventually eliminate – your suffering when you board and aircraft. So just for starters, here´s a quick quartet of ways to get you through the experience with minimal angst.

Identifying Irrational Thoughts

Your thoughts play a crucial role in generating emotions, including anxiety. So the first step to overcoming your fear of flying is to identify and challenge the irrational ones which contribute to your anxiety. For example, thoughts like “the plane is going to crash” or “I won’t be able to control my anxiety during the flight” can themselves trigger an excessive fear response.

Strategy

  • Keep a journal of your thoughts for several days before your flight.
  • Identify negative automatic thoughts related to flying.
  • Question every irrational thought and look for objective evidence to refute it.

Techniques of Cognitive Adaptation

Once you´ve identified these irrational thoughts, the goal becomes to modify the thought patterns. This involves replacing catastrophic thoughts with more realistic and rational ones.

Strategy

  • Challenge each negative thought by asking questions like “What is the real evidence that this will happen?” or “What are the real probabilities that what I’m fearing will happen?”. 
  • Develop positive and realistic affirmations to counteract irrational thoughts, such as:”The airplane is the safest means of transport according to all statistics” 

Gradual Exposure

To face your fears in a controlled and progressive manner, this technique involves repeatedly exposing yourself to the feared situation (in this case, flying) in a gradual and systematic manner. 

Strategy

  • Practice visualising flight situations.
  • Gradually expose yourself to aircraft-related environments such as the airport.
  • Consider taking short flights without letting too much time pass between them. 

Development of Coping Skills

Such skills can be highly effective in managing anxiety in the present moment and during flight. 

Strategy 

  • Use deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques during the flight. 
  • Practice mindfulness to stay in the present moment and reduce anxious anticipation. 


I hope you find these recommendations useful and that you can put them into practice soon. Remember that if you experience an intense fear that interferes with your daily life, you need to go to therapy to be able to tackle it from the root.

Happy – and fearless – flying!

 

David Lanzas, a psychologist specialising in anxiety and trauma, is the founder of the Instituto Lanzas.
Photos | RossHelen