Imagine not being able to get excited about going on holiday abroad because you’re so anxious about just getting yourself there. It’s pretty hard to picture.
I spoke with a friend recently who really struggles from her fear of flying, to the extent where she wouldn’t book trips to certain destinations purely because of the flight time, airline or flight route. It turns out that up to 1 in 3 British people have bad flight-related anxiety – so bad for some that it prevents them from even setting foot in an airport.
The excitement of choosing bikinis or new skis, of booking a beautiful hotel, and planning your itinerary – the ‘pre-travel jitters’ take on a whole new meaning when you can’t step on the plane.
Dr Nick Mooney from Re:Cognition Health spoke about Aviophobia as “a fear of flying so severe that it impedes a person’s ability to behave in the way they want to”. And it’s more common than we think, affecting around 6% of the British population. How many people do you know who suffer from pre-flight anxiety?
A few tips on dealing with fear of flying…
1. Seek Help.
Psychological therapy has been proven to help people manage their anxiety while flying, especially for those who struggle with severe levels of nerves.
If you suffer from milder levels of anxiety, common forms of talking therapy like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) help you manage your discomfort and can make flying more enjoyable.
2. Calming Techniques
Breathing exercises, mindfulness practice and visualisation exposure exercises can all counteract anxiety around flying. Dr Nick recommended practicing these in advance so the skills can be put into practice effectively once onboard.
3. Intensive therapy programmes.
There are courses which are geared literally towards flight anxiety, sometimes called ‘Fear of Flying’ courses. The courses are offered by some airline operators, and they allow people to fully immerse themselves to their anxiety by providing an aeroplane flight as part of the programme.
The courses run in groups, which is also validating for people with a fear of flying, because they can share and normalise their anxiety with others who feel the same.
4. Knowledge = Power
To help yourself, it’s vital that you know your triggers. By identifying what the biggest fears are, you can pinpoint the fear and have a better understanding of the steps you need to take to combat that particular phobia.
5. Inform the flight crew.
Some people find it helpful to inform the flight crew and even their neighbouring passengers about their fear. It takes away any awkwardness if and when you start exhibiting signs of anxiety. The crew are trained to manage flight anxiety so can offer additional support, whilst fellow passengers will genuinely sympathise.
6. Get familiar with the facts.
Another suggestion from Dr Nick is to do research on statistics that relate to your particular fear. For example, if your phobia revolves around plane crashes, research how many planes have crashed recently and the likelihood of this happening. He warns that whilst this won’t eliminate the fear, it can help to put it into context, allowing you to rationalise your fearful beliefs.
When, if ever, have you been hit with the pre-flight jitters?
Love, Chloe x