Fear of Flying? Try These 7 Strategies to Calm Your Nerves


Fear of Flying

Fear of flying is a common form of anxiety. One reason people are anxious about flying is  because they overestimate the dangers. Plane crashes are memorable news stories, but we forget that most planes don’t crash and that’s why crashes are newsworthy. Even though planes have been flying for the past century, they still seem a bit illogical to most of us. Unless you’re an aerospace engineer, you probably don’t understand how such a huge vehicle can successfully fly across the sky. And since we don’t understand it, it seems scary.

The good news is that like most things, the more often you fly, the more natural it seems. But…easier said than done, so I’ve put together 7 tips for managing your fear of flying.

  1. Create a plan for managing your anxiety before you get on board. Anticipation is often the worst part of anxiety. Creating a plan and identifying coping strategies will help you feel in control.
  2. Distract yourself. Distraction is an effective strategy for fear of flying. Bring along activities that require mental focus such as crossword puzzles, a novel you can’t put down, or a video game. Talking to your seatmate can also be an interesting distraction.
  3. Relax yourself. Load up your phone with relaxing or favorite tunes. Then put on your headphones, sit back, and enjoy your playlist. You can also download some guided meditations that will guide your through relaxing your mind and body. Simple deep breathing can also work wonders. Breathe slowly in through your nose for a count of 4 and then exhale through your mouth for another count of 4. Repeat.
  4. Bring a comfort object. Don’t be embarrassed to bring your favorite blanket, fuzzy slippers, or lucky baseball cap. Adults can benefit from a security blanket just as much as a child.
  5. Resist the urge to use alcohol. I know that lots of people find a drink or two helps them relax. Despite this conventional wisdom, I don’t recommend this coping strategy as it can truly backfire. You can’t be sure of how alcohol will affect you when you’re 39,000 feet up. You may end up edgy, nauseous unable to sleep, dehydrated, or belligerent.
  6. Use a positive visualization and mantra. Close your eyes and visualize yourself successfully boarding, flying, landing, and enjoying your destination. Repeat something positive such as “I’m going to arrive safely and feel confident that I can manage my anxiety” whenever you begin to feel anxious.
  7. Remind yourself why you’re doing this. Make a list of all the reasons you’re flying and how good it will feel to conquer your fear.

I hope these tips make your next vacation or business trip a bit more relaxing.

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Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.

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