How I Beat My Fear Of Flying (ish)

Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while will know that I used to travel solely by land and sea. I was a travel blogger afraid of flying! Well actually, I’m still a travel blogger afraid of flying… but I’ve managed to get over it enough to start flying regularly after 3 years of no-flights travel. I also don’t feel as scared as I once used to, although I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel any fear sometimes.

Even in the last month I’ve taken around 6 flights. For me that’s a huge deal considering the huge anxiety I used to feel just thinking about getting on a plane, and also by the fact I’ve taken those flights without any sleeping pills, drugs, or mind altering substances. I don’t even drink alcohol on board. The most I’ll have is a cup of tea!

Anyway, enough about me, what about you? If you’re someone who’s afraid of flying or has a close family member, partner, or friend who feels that way about getting on a plane – how can they beat their fear of flying? Here’s what’s worked for me;

Visualisation

You have to put yourself in a different place mentally when you’re on a plane. You have to keep your thoughts grounded and back down to earth both literally and figuratively. One thing that has really helped with my own fear is picturing myself on a train and relating the bored, ordinary day feeling I have on a train with how I picture myself while on a flight in air.

I picture my daily commute on the ScotRail train from my small hometown to Edinburgh. The one I used to take every day to work before I started travelling and became a blogger. The one I take every time I come home and go through to the city for a night out or to go shopping. I actually tell myself in my head before and during take-off to ‘treat it like a train journey’. I bring myself home in my head. I remind myself of how many flights there are on a daily basis, and the fact that we rarely hear of any incidents with planes on any of those flights – just like we rarely hear of these things happening on a train. I feel comfortable on a train, why wouldn’t I feel comfortable on a plane? This is the thought process for me.

Visualising another form of transport you feel comfortable on really helps if you can picture it in your mind because you suddenly stop thinking about the “what if I’m the rare occasion when the plane crashes” and you start thinking rationally – like you do in other similar situations. I think visualising other ordinary day situations where you feel rational and comfortable could also help if this particular trick doesn’t work for you.

Mind Distraction

Even with all the visualisation in the world, your mind may still have moments of panic where it pictures or thinks about the possible scenario of a crash. You need to be ready immediately to fill you head with other important thoughts that are unrelated. For me the feelings of panic are always met by images of a plane suddenly nose diving to the earth. They appear randomly and suddenly at various points throughout the flight, and when I picture something I genuinely feel it. Distracting your mind from these thoughts is almost impossible if what you’re trying to distract it with is not something that genuinely interests you a lot.

One thing that makes me zone in completely to what I’m doing and blank out the outside is work. Work related thoughts consume me because I’m passionate about my work as a blogger. If flight is in take-off and I can’t take out my laptop or electrical appliances yet I get my notepad and pen out and I brainstorm ideas for a particular project I’m working on such as an eBook. The notes I’m writing have to be about something specific rather than just trying to write anything, otherwise my mind stalls and I start to think about flying again. It needs to be something that genuinely pre-occupies your mind on a normal day-to-day basis or it’s not going to distract you. If all else fails doodle. Doing something will always work better than just sitting there in your own thoughts. Sometimes once I’m up in the air I’m so into my brainstorming ideas that I’m usually late in getting my laptop out as I’m already pre-occupied.

Essentially – keep busy. Don’t let yourself have time to think panic stricken thoughts. Even if your feel sometimes like you teetering on the edge of those panic filled moments.

Daytime Flights Are Better…

When I first started flying again, I was unable to even look out the window without panicking. Now it actually calms me. That is if the flight is during the day. For some reason looking out and seeing what’s below me helps me sometimes to feel OK. When it’s dark or cloudy and I can’t see the ground I feel terrible and can’t wait for the flight to be over. I’m not sure exactly why this is, and I’ve been unable to come up with any analysis, but maybe this will work for you too? Also, as a side note, planes have a much higher chance of landing and taking off safely in good visibility. Daylight is therefore better than landing or taking off at night if that helps your peace of mind.

– With any fear I guess there comes a point where you just have to suck it up and get it over with. I’m no expert when it comes to flying, I’m no psychologist, and I’m still not a hundred percentage unafraid when it comes to flying, but maybe a bit of fear sometimes in your life is a good thing? If you’re willing to go through something that scares you a lot to get to where you need to be in life then it shows that you care about it, and that you’re determined to succeed. It also just makes you human.

If you liked this blog post you may also like my blog post How To Beat A Fear Of Flying Part One.

11 Responses to “How I Beat My Fear Of Flying (ish)”

  1. Laura says:

    WOW! Inspiring!

  2. Alma says:

    I really hope that one day I can get to where you are. The thought of flying still brings me out in a cold sweat! I’ve always imagined that if I could fly everywhere first class then I wouldn’t be frightened with all that luxury around me! lol I’m going to try your visualizing technique, I’m flying to Spain for a family holiday in a couple of months.

  3. This is all great advice.

    Maybe I’m a bit crazy, but whenever I’m on a plane with turbulence, I just tell myself that dying is not really the worst thing that could happen. Dying is not so scary… excruciating PAIN, for me is scary. And a plane crash would be intant death, not pain.

    Haha, am I just nuts?

    Anyway, thanks for the tips about keeping your cool.

  4. Actually, since we’re on the topic, here’s an awesome video from a plane I was in that took off from Lukla, Nepal (supposedly the most dangerous airport on earth).

    The runway is super-short, so it basically goes on a super-steep decline before takeoff. It’s almost like being on a rollercoaster.

    Warning: if you fear flying, you may find this vid disturbing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Xqv3sXdfrg

  5. Dockfam says:

    I love this post. I love to travel too and hate flying. It wasn’t so bad until after I had my kids.

    I’d rather drive. now after I board the plane just give me a Xanax and a glass of wine….

  6. Waegook Tom says:

    You go, Jane! I went through a period where I was TERRIFIED of flying – the slightest bit of turbulence would get me shaking and my palms sweating.

    I once read a bit of advice that said when there’s turbulence or shaking, for every time you feel the plane go down, take not of when it goes back up. That makes me feel a LOT better.

    My mum is scared to death of flying – the last time I remember her flying was when I was 11 or 12 years old on a plane to Jersey, and then twice after that. Before then, she didn’t fly a looooong time – at least not since giving birth to me. She just sat there on the plane looking down the entire time….now, she only takes boats or trains. I wish she’d give it a try again, but I doubt she will.

    Anyhow, great tips here and some things that I haven’t thought of yet. I’m still not the best flyer, so I’ll definitely use some of these 🙂

  7. Jane says:

    Thank you for all the nice comments! It always interesting to hear other peoples stories and how a fear of flying affects them or theie friends & family.

  8. I am s..l..o..w..l..y conquering my fear of flying by doing some of the things you mentioned and adding a glass of wine 😉

  9. Andrew says:

    I definitely am still frightened to fly. I am getting better, but still take low dose valium to do it. I am better in that I can get on the flight and be nearly to takeoff before getting anxious.

    My biggest issue is turbulence. I can feel tiny bumps and they trigger fear deep in my head. I have tried the visualization and it helps some. I can do it for a few minutes at a time.

    I love the little TVs in the seatbacks on longer flights. Those help me a lot to distract my mind. My wife talks to me when we are together and although that helps, it is a big strain on her to listen to my ramblings for several hours.

    I have done enough flights over the last year that it shouldn’t be a big deal for me, but ti still is. I keep trying.

  10. The more I fly, the more anxiety I’ve been having! Something about being helpless and putting your life into the hands of some guy with a mustache in the cockpit scares me. I just took a flight from Krakow,Poland to Berlin and it was a propeller plane!

  11. Beverly says:

    Well, it is interesting to read of other folks fears of flying. I haven’t flown for 40 years! hard to believe. Before that I flew a lot but anxiety and fear overcame me. I have been offered a free condo in London to visit anytime and for as long as I wish. I am now 69 years, now or never. My daughter is crazy for London and Scotland and is eager to go. I am taking classes to try and overcome this fear, but the thought of the lst time I really take a flight makes me feel crazy and frozen. Anyone have any suggestions on taking that lst flight.

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