Ever since I was little, there was something about flying that I hated. The fear didn’t develop until later, but it was clearly coming since even as a child, I would have rather taken a train for 24 hours than hopped on board a one hour flight. As I got older, that distaste turned into fear, and I began to worry about every single part of the flight:
- The Ear Popping
- The Turns
- The Changing Elevations
Interestingly, the only part of the flight I was okay with was the takeoff (which for many is the most fearful part), and the only reason I was able to handle takeoffs were because I was convinced that we were safer because the pilot was paying attention (as if they were playing video games or asleep the rest of the flight).
What I Did to Control the Fear
Clearly this was a problem, especially because I love travelling. There are so many interesting places and cultures, and my aversion to flying made it hard to enjoy any of them. So I had to come up with my own strategies to help decrease this fear. Here is what I came up with:
- Thorough Distractions – If I can’t think about my fears, I can’t have as many. I bought a handheld video game system, put a lot of loud music on my mp3 player, and listened to the music on full blast while keeping my mind and fingers occupied. If I couldn’t think about my fears as often, they wouldn’t be that controllable.
- Skip Coffee – This was a tough one for me. Every day I drink coffee to be alert in the morning. It’s an addiction. But in this case, I didn’t want to be alert. I wanted to be cloudy. So I skipped coffee and withstood the caffeine headache so that my mind would be as cloudy as possible.
- Eat/Drink – Despite skipping coffee, I didn’t want the discomforts of not eating to interfere with the flight. But I also didn’t want acid reflux or anything that would make the flight worse. So I had some slices of bread and a lot of water, keeping me full (but not too full) and hydrated. I also chewed a stick of gum all flight so that my ears would pop and I would have something to do with my mouth.
- Openly Talking About It – My first few flights I went with a partner. I told her in advance I was going to have flight anxiety, and asked her if she’d be okay with me talking to her about it aboard the flight. She agreed. Whenever I had any anxiety, I opened up to her about it. This helped me get out of my own head, because the more I tried to hold things in the worse than anxiety got.
- Fly – Finally, one of the best ways to get over a fear of flying is to fly. The more planes you’re on, the easier they become. Though I know for some the fear can be so strong it’s hard to get on the flight, it’s also true that the more you ride, the easier it becomes.
It didn’t happen overnight. It was gradual, and there were times when the anxiety came back – particularly during times of high turbulence. But those days were few and far between, and after only a few flights, I found that my anxiety was much better, and my fear of flying was drastically diminished. I could finally travel again.