Fears are always worse inside of our heads. Our minds have the tendency to wander to many scenarios that can’t or won’t happen. But your brain likes to check out all the worst case scenarios, you know… just in case. Your brain may be keen to cause phobias such as aviophobia, the fear of flying.
And for many people, including myself, the fear of flying on an airplane can be a difficult task. Learning to cope with and outgrow a fear of flying on an airplane is not an easy task, but the rewards of learning to face your phobia can completely change your outlook on life.
If you don’t want to let life to pass you by, here are five steps to help you face your aviophobia.
- Figure out where the fear of flying stems from.
I know exactly where my fear of flying comes from— my dad. He doesn’t like to fly, so my family never really traveled much by plane, instead we opted to take car trips to the Jersey Shore. I get nervous before any air travel. I stress out over going through security and fret waiting to board the plane.
Some people experience anxiety because of the inability to control what goes on inside the plane. Accepting that the pilot and crew control the plane is pertinent to relinquishing your anxiety.
Once you address your fear of flying and identify what causes it, you can begin to work through what makes you scared or anxious. If you find comfort in statistics, here’s one: the comparative odds of death in a U.S. commercial jet airline is 1 in 7 million.
- Address a pending need to fly.
In May 2015 I wanted to go to a conference, which meant flying from D.C. to Nashville. I really wanted to go, so the conference was the perfect opportunity to address my fears. I had to address not only flying but also flying alone, which I made me even more uncomfortable.
Once you know that you have a reason to fly, you need to mentally prepare yourself for the flight. Start thinking about the flight and trip logistics and when or where you are going. Then you can start to prepare for the trip and actual flight.
- Make your plans and goals to face fears.
Planning for a trip is exciting, even if you are nervous about flying. Actually purchasing plane tickets, making the hotel reservations, and finding your passport are key in accepting that you are about to fly away somewhere.
If flying stresses you out, make sure that you do anything to alleviate the nerves. When you buy your ticket, figure out where on the plane you would be most comfortable sitting. Perhaps a window seat, to look out over the clouds? Or maybe you would like to be in an exit row and take the responsibility of understanding the safety precautions? This is my preference, plus there is more leg room. Or, maybe you would rather sit near the bathroom, so you don’t bother the other passengers every time you get up to go. All in all, it’s important to think ahead about what can make your trip easier for you to handle.
- Prepare for the impending trip.
Planes are notorious for not being comfortable, especially for international flights. In order to be more comfortable, many people like to bring pillows or blankets to make them feel at home. Even on short flights, an activity to distract yourself is pretty crucial. Plan ahead on what items will make your plane trip as relaxing as it can be.
Bringing aboard items such as an eye-mask, an adult coloring book, or a novel are great tools to make a flight easier. When I flew to Nashville, I wanted to have a book I had read before to bring me comfort. I chose to bring Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, a book about a road trip and finding yourself. I thought if I read something familiar, I might feel more at ease than if I was trying intensely to focus on something new.
- Just do it!
It’s obvious and extremely cheesy, but it’s the damn truth. The only thing you can do to conquer your fear of flying, is get on that plane and jet off. Overcoming a phobia is not easy, but know that you’re going to feel ten times better if you face your fear.
I was a mess during the few weeks before I flew to Nashville, but I was surprisingly calm the morning I left. Anxiety about flying is funny that way— it wreaks havoc in your mind, but it can also leave you feeling complacent. I was so proud of myself for flying to Nashville and back, combatting the fears I’ve grappled with for years. I set my mind to it, and I was able to call my trip a success. I can’t wait until the next opportunity I get to visit a new place.
Just know those with aviophobia are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6.5 percent of the population has aviophobia. We may never completely erase our fear of flying, but every time you board a jet, you chip away at the aviophobia.
Before you know it, you’ll be soaring above the clouds.
This article previously was published in 2016 by Tote Magazine. © Rachel Shubin 2017