Even if you once flew without a care in the world, sometimes the idea of boarding a flight might make you feel anxious. That could be due to an actual bad experience on a plane or just a general anxiety that manifests as a fear of flying. Sometimes, if you haven’t flown in a while your brain isn’t used to it and over thinking about every possible outcome can creep in. In this article I give you some tips on how to overcome flying fear.
And regardless of whether you were ever an occasional or frequent flyer, airplane travel could involve a feeling that you are being asked to give up a sense of personal control. I hear this frequently during conversations with London hypnotherapy clients. As a hypnotherapist in London, I have helped many people overcome flying fear. I do so using expert hypnotherapy. I also provide clients with a relaxing hypnosis and meditation audio to listen to whilst in flight. For more details about my sessions, just click here.
More people are now enquiring about how to overcome flying fear
For a number of people, flying fear has nothing to do with flying at all. Rather simply when we are over thinking or stressed or live with more pressure, something that was once routine becomes non-routine, and can trigger a part of the brain called the amygdala to release stress hormones. When we experience that stress hormone release, our minds associate that with danger. It’s totally natural to fear flying, when you think about it. After all being on a plane involves giving up personal control. However, the reality is that flying is safe and you are totally safe too!
My first slice of advice is to not judge yourself for having anxiety or fears. If you’re feeling apprehensive about boarding a plane, it’s important to be compassionate with yourself. I see a lot of people for fear of flying hypnotherapy. None of them are weak. Quite the opposite, I have helped highly successful and highly educated people, from CEOs, bankers, teachers, on how to overcome flying fear. They are simply people who are just experiencing an anxiety about flying. No need to criticise or judge yourself adversely for this.
Tips on how to overcome flying fear
Here are some tools you can use to reduce flying fear. You might also consider some hypnotherapy to really kick that fear of flying to the curb.
Focus on the positive actual reality
Whilst in flight, focus on what is really happening versus what you imagine is happening. Since what is real is not going to cause anxiety. What is real? Well, it could be the cabin crew waking around, children chatting maybe or simply that you too are sitting chatting. All is ok and normal. Stay with reality rather than imagined fantasies of danger. You don’t need to be looking out for danger, since that’s the job of the pilots and cabin crew. Just delegate that to them, so you can relax instead.
Keep in mind why you’re travelling. Think about how excited you are to reach your destination. Focus on the reason you are flying, be that a trip to see family, a sea-side vacation, or connecting with a much-missed friend. This is a really good tip for how to overcome flying fear.
It’s important to maintain a sense of control. So, make the choice to fly versus whatever the alternatives are into a conscious and deliberate choice. You always have that choice. Flying is just a means to getting you to your chosen destination too. Frequently during hypnotherapy for fear of flying, I run through these ideas on how to overcome flying fear and also use visualisations to enforce them and help people feel empowered and calm.
Prep a self-care toolkit
Pack a “care package” for the flight, that includes your go-to comfort items. These could be a deck of cards, sketch pad, headphones, for listening to a soothing playlist, reading material, lip balm, and your favourite foods or mints. In other words, plan your trip. I also provide clients with a soothing hypnosis recording to listen to during the flight. This can be a real source of calm and peace of mind.
Use the calming 5-4-3-2-1 exercise
When onboard, a way to relax is to focus your energy on something other than your fear of flying. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise. This is a way of occupying your mind so that anxiety-provoking thoughts can’t take hold so easily.
To do this, first sit or recline comfortably. Then focus on an object in front of you. For this you’ll want to keep that focus throughout the exercise. Then say quietly “I see” and name something in your peripheral vision (you can do this silently, or try it out loud at first to see which works better). Do it again, by naming something else in your peripheral vision. Then continue until you’ve made five statements. Give it go!
Simply repeat this exercise. You can then try saying, “I hear” instead of “I see,” and name five different things you can hear, separately.
The next step is to say, “I feel,” and name something you feel externally, not internally. So for example, you might choose, “I feel the chair underneath me.” Continue do this until you’ve made five statements. That completes one cycle.
Yes, it takes some concentration, but that’s actually a good thing and exactly what you want. As you concentrate on non-threatening things, the ‘fight or flight’ hormones will get reduced and you will then feel more relaxed.
For the next cycle, you can change things up slightly, so your mind doesn’t get bored and drift off to negative thoughts. So, rather than doing five statements, do four. Then, in the next cycle, do three statements, then two, then one. You get the idea! Finally, return back to five and repeat the exercise until you are as relaxed as you want to be. Sounds good, right.
Consume distracting media
Keep your mind fully occupied with something concrete to keep your imagination from gaining a foothold. For example, why not buy magazines or read a light book, or listen to a podcast or watch a movie. A flight is also a great time to focus on needlepoint or puzzles if you like those activities. Any sort of game can be great distractions too. However, be mindful if gaming leaves you feeling anxious ever, that’s not what we want.
Work through the ABC process
Remember those stress hormones that feel like something dangerous is about to happy? Try this “ABC” process
“A” stands for assessment. Remember that automatic, unexamined thinking is not a true assessment. Ask yourself some basic questions, such as “Is there evidence that the amygdala is reacting to danger?” And even if you think there is an explanation, is there a non-danger explanation for the amygdala to be reacting and you having these feelings?
Maybe you would assess that flying is actually dangerous? Well just think, would cabin crew or pilots be doing their jobs if they really were dangerous? That would be crazy. Insurance companies wouldn’t sell pilots insurance! In fact it’s a fact that flying is the safest form for travel.
“B” stands for Building a plan. It’s time to create a plan to help you board that flight. For example seeing a hypnotherapist for some fear of flying hypnotherapy.
“C” stands for commitment. Commit to assertively moving forward by taking a flight. You can do it!
Expect the routine physical sensations of flying
If your anxiety is heightened, your mind may get alarmed around unfamiliar sensations, and there are a few in flight. For example, changes in air pressure, noises, gentle turbulence are all safe and common flight feathers. During hypnotherapy for fear of flying, I often run through these with clients. It’s also totally normal to feel tired, stress or even light headed on a flight. These are all normal features of flying, so expect them and don’t allow them to bother you, since they are expected.
You’ll want to prepare yourself for the experience of something called noise abatement. This is when on some take-offs, the pilots reduce power after reaching about 1,000 feet (roughly 30 seconds after take-off). This might feel frightening if you don’t know what it’s all about or realise its totally normal.
I’m sure these tips on how to overcome flying fear have been helpful. However, you may feel you need a bit more support. So why not consider hypnotherapy for fear of flying? I see people in London and also online. If you have two or more sessions, I provide you with my free ‘Calm flight’ hypnosis and meditation recording to use onboard, to ensure you are calm and relaxed on your flight.