How to conquer your fear of flying

From the art of deep breathing to snuggling under a weighted blanket – we share some practical and easy tips for you to conquer your fear of flying

Clammy palms, palpitations, butterflies in the tummy… if the very thought of flying breaks you out in a cold sweat, you’re not alone. One in four UAE residents have a fear of flying, according to a study by British Airways, with concerns around safety and being afraid of the unknown the biggest triggers. While severe aviophobia can be a challenge to overcome, if you have a moderate case of the jitters there are lots of useful tips and tricks to try so you don’t have to miss out on those exotic holidays. 

Talk to an expert

A good first step is to reach out to a professional who can draw upon some tried and tested therapies to help get you airborne. “For a fear of flying, we work on visualisation, reducing anxiety, systematic desensitisation, and exposure therapy,” says Dr Thoraiya Kanafani of the Human Relations Institute and Clinics in Dubai. “The gist of the treatments are based on the cognitive behavioural therapy approach, which posits that by changing the way that we think, we can ultimately change the way we behave. Eventually, the anxiety subsides to a level where it is no longer causing any dysfunction in the person’s life or at times, even acknowledged.”

Use facts over fear

Many fears can stem from ‘what if?’, so if you are armed with facts and knowledge, these unknowns become greatly diminished. Did you know, for instance, that turbulence is a natural occurrence when flying and, although it can feel scary at times, it’s totally normal? British Airways has a one-day course coming up in Dubai on April 17, 2020 led by experienced presenters and BA pilots that explains the technical side of aviation, including all the unusual noises and sensations you experience in an aircraft. Plus, they’ll share some relaxation techniques that’ll help you take control of your anxiety. (See flyingwithconfidence.com).

Grab a weighted blanket

Studies have shown that a weighted blanket can have a relaxing effect on the body. Hence, getting your hands on a travel-friendly version can help you feel more at ease mid-flight. Popular brands include SensaCalm and ZonLi – you can find them easily online. 

Breathe slowly and steadily

Simple breathing exercises can send a signal to the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body down. Breathing expert Max Strom (maxstrom.com) has some easy videos and courses to try – simply download his Strategic Breathing app. One such suggestion is the 4-7-8 breath technique: empty the lungs of air, breathe in quietly through the nose for four seconds, hold the breath for a count of seven seconds and then exhale to a count of eight. 

Get plugged in

While you’re packing, en-route to the airport, in the sky; tune into the power of music to keep you calm. Researchers at Stanford University say that music is “one of the most widely available and cost effective therapeutic modalities that ever existed” and suggest that “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication”. Apps like Calm and Spotify have some perfectly curated playlists to help soothe you.

Visualise

Exercises in visualisation and mindfulness can be a powerful distraction from a state of fear. Try visualising yourself stepping off the aircraft into the arms of loved ones, or into a lovely warm climate. There are many apps available to support you with guided exercises, including Headspace, Catch It, Beat Panic, Thrive and the online course, Be Mindful. 

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Image credit: Getty

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