Simple ways to calm anxiety when flying08/24/2019
The bumper August bank holiday has finally arrived and, for many, this means jet setting off on holiday.
But for those who suffer with a fear of flying, the lead up to a holiday can be an excruciatingly anxious time.
There are many reasons passengers can get anxious about flying – from the gravity-defying travel method itself to the lack of control. Experts have also suggested that a fear of flying can run parallel to other related phobias, such as a fear of heights, tight spaces, social situations or leaving a comfort zone.
It’s thought around 90% of nervous flyers worry they will be overcome with anxiety during the flight. So, here are some simple steps to help reduce the panic.
Identify your triggers
Working out what exactly is frightening you is a great way of taking back control. Whether it’s taking off, turbulence, crashing, claustrophobia, a fear of heights or something else, being aware of what can set you off if the first step in focusing on how to resolve it.
A lot to do with anxiety comes down to identifying ‘rational’ and ‘irrational’ fears. Anxiety is a normal bodily response, after all.
Once you’ve spent some time thinking about whether the trigger is a rational or irrational fear, and thought about how likely it is to occur, it should help you manage the anxiety a little better.
Charlotte Fox Weber, psychotherapist and Head of Psychotherapy at The School of Life tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Anxiety can sometimes dupe us into believing we are just applying common sense to a situation when in fact we are angst ridden and we may not be assessing a situation as accurately as we might believe.
‘It can be helpful to decipher these moments so that we don’t run off with our anxious beliefs.’
Fear of flying can sometimes stem from a lack of education of how planes work. Knowing more about aviation itself and flight procedures can help during your time in the air. For example, knowing the different noises planes make (and why they make them) can stop the mind worrying and thinking the worst.
Getting familiar with flying statistics can also be helpful. Anxiety thrives off ignorance and catastrophic thoughts, after all.
Most nervous flyers will probably have heard the phrase ‘flying is safer than driving’ a million times, but actually processing what that means, and then trying to rationalise your flying fear as a result of that, goes a long way.
Get to the airport early
It may sound simple, but if you’re already feeling anxious about your flight, then it’s important to keep other stress levels to a minimum.
Rushing through the airport to make your flight will only add to your anxiety, so be sure to arrive at the airport with plenty of time.
Take a half hour or so to wind down before your flight, be it in an airport lounge or in a coffee shop – this will help your body relax.
Breathing exercises can help with all kinds of anxiety and are easy to carry out on board a plane. As anxiety increases, breathing tends to turn into rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. This can cause an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, and can result in an increased heart rate, dizziness and muscle tension.
Deep breaths, however, can instantly help to reduce stress. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose, keeping shoulders relaxed, then exhale through the mouth. Repeat this as much as necessary.
Use positive affirmations
There’s a lot of power in positive thinking, so make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones such as ‘I am safe’ and ‘I am fine’. The chances are that telling yourself the same thing over and over, will help you to eventually believe it.
Have plenty of distractions
Step on the plane armed with a plethora of things to distract you from anxious thoughts. This could be podcasts, Netflix shows or a bank of your favourite music – just be sure to choose things that make you feel good.
Alternatively, downloading a stress-busting meditation app such as Headspace can help get you into a peaceful state of mind.
Choose an aisle seat
Most airlines will let you choose your seat when booking and opting for an aisle seat is a small action that goes a long way.
An aisle seat means that it’s easier for you to get up and move around the plane, should you start to feel a little claustrophobic. It also makes it easier to avoid looking out the window, which might trigger further worry.
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