In 2012, a C130 flight from Manila to Bicol started the most paralyzing of fears that I’ve ever had in my life. The turbulence was so rough it felt like my soul was being ripped away from my body. The plane turned and plummeted up in the air like the pilot has forgotten he had passengers. As if that is not enough, the machine was also making all these noises and sounds that had me imagining that if The Reaper has a theme song it’d probably be it. Since then, I dreaded every flight that I had ever taken. I jump at every sound the plane makes and a slight tilt of the plane gets my pulse racing. In those flights, not a book, not a food, not even a pleasant conversation with a friend could distract me from my Final Destination-ish thoughts.
What do you make of a traveler who hates flying? Yeah I know, ridiculous. One day I told myself, this fear has got to stop. I had to do something to conquer my fear, hence I started searching for ways that may help me deal with it. A few months before I took that plane to Boracay in April this year, I subjected myself to rigorous preparation. I am very pleased to report that my effort yielded positive results. So if you too are gripped with this fear, which I’ll be the first to say can be quite debilitating, let me share with you these 7 tips that may help you conquer or at least manage your fear of flying.
1. Start with the why
The first step to recovery for an alcoholic is to make him realize and accept that he is an alcoholic. It is kind of the same thing when dealing with the fear of flying; you have to acknowledge first that you have this fear and determine what causes it. As I mentioned earlier, my fear started in 2012. I tried to remember the things that happened that ultimately led to my flying anxiety. When you are able to pinpoint where the problem lies, you can start to find ways to specifically address it.
2. Observe your thoughts and feelings during flight
Up in the air and you feel the fear setting in, begin to observe your feelings and your thoughts. Is your pulse racing? Are you sweating profusely? Does it feel like your hands are getting cold and clammy? Do you think that the plane might crash? Are you thinking about your loved ones and the fear that you may never see them again? Now take five deep breaths, just listen to your thoughts and let it all flow freely. Trying to control your fear, even if it’s baseless, is one of the hardest things to do so instead of wasting your energy trying to suppress it, let it flow through you. But after you’ve allowed yourself to think of these things, the next step is to start questioning these thoughts one by one. Why do you think the plane will crash? Are there existing conditions that tell this for a fact? Turbulence may be scary, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the plane would crash. Just question every negative idea that comes to your mind and try to reason with yourself. Continued practice weakens the power of these gloomy thoughts.
3. Look at the flight crew
If the plane is having problems, the flight crew will be the first to know. You may notice this in their demeanor; do they look anything but calm? If they look unworried and comfortable then so should you. You may argue that they are trained how to act in desperate situations, but if something is way out of control or if there is any cause of alarm, you can trust that they will all help you through the situation. Until then, just sit, relax, and enjoy the ride.
4. Listen to the pilot
The pilot normally informs his passengers about the weather condition, especially if there is a chance that the plane might experience some turbulence. Watch out for his announcements, and when he gives assurance that he has everything under control take his word for it. Trust the pilot, he’s been trained to fly that plane, he knows exactly what he is doing.
5. Take the window seat
If you have flying anxiety I highly suggest you sit by the window. I know this may sound crazy especially if you are scared of heights but based on my experience, I tend to be more worried when I don’t have a view of what’s down below. When I sit by the window it somehow makes me feel in control thereby mitigating my agitation. Also, the view of the clouds has a calming effect. Instead of worrying about things that may or may not happen, why not enjoy the view instead.
Out of all the methods that I’ve tried, meditating is by far the most effective. If you have not tried meditating before, I suggest you start doing it at least one week before your scheduled flight. Meditation takes some getting used to so it’s best if your mind and body have been pre-conditioned already before you travel. Also, choose a guided meditation so your mind doesn’t start wandering off. There are several guided meditation videos on Youtube that you can listen to or better yet, download a mobile app that offers free meditation audio. I am personally using this app called, Mindifi. As soon as the plane takes off, plug in your earphones, close your eyes, then listen to the soothing voice in the audio.
7. Listen to soft music
I find that listening to upbeat music only aggravates my anxiety. Listening to soothing and soft music, on the other hand, does the opposite. It encourages calm feelings and a relaxed state of mind. Just to give you an example, let me share to you my “Flying Playlist.” (Click the title to hear the audio).
- Blouse – Into Black
- Alexandre Desplat – Sunrise On Lake Pontchartrain
- Mr. Little Jeans – Good Mistake
- Cass McCombs – County Line
- Alexandre Desplat – The Meadow
- The Smiths – This Night Has Opened My Eyes
- Elliott Smith – Between The Bars
- Beth Orton – So Much More
- Cold War Kids – Cryptomnesia
- Dotan – It Gets Better
On a final note, the possibility of you dying in a plane crash is 1 in 11 million. It means you are more likely to die of a heart disease than a plane accident, so chill. It can be quite unnerving when you think about the fact that you are practically leaving your fate in the hands of the pilot but try not to worry. If you can’t stop yourself from worrying then use the tips above to distract yourself from your fear. I know though that we are all different and what may work for me may not work for you. So my advice is to never give up, research on it, try the suggested methods that you can find, see what works for you. Ultimately, just relax my friend, leave it to the hands of the experts, and enjoy the ride.
Do you have other tips to help overcome the fear of flying? If you do, I’d love to hear them in the comment below.
NOTE: The gifs were taken from the web.