My fear of flying developed in my late teens, I don’t recall being scared of flying at as child. My Dad used to take us to air-shows regularly and I even went up in a propeller based plane, I think it was a DC6. Even having mastered my fear of flying I wouldn’t be keen on going up in a DC6 now.
I would spend the days before a flight getting anxious. Playing it over in my head every possible negative outcome you could imagine. In the departure lounge I was a mess, physical symptoms really hot, really cold, sweating, shivering, gut wrenching anxiety causing nausea. On the plane it was sheer panic, I would be tapping my leg, clenching the chair, losing it really. In the air I was OK apart from the landing which triggered it again but not on the same level.
I recall one flight: the day before a small plane had crashed it was front page news. My fiancee did her best to shield me from the news as my anxiety symptoms started to hit peak. In the departure lounge the usual.. shaking legs hot, cold, feeling sick, then a kind man offered me the paper I caught a glimpse of the front page a picture of a plane surrounded by a burning inferno of fire…thanks mate.
Fast forward to now last time I flew I was laughing during take-off. Don’t misunderstand, I haven’t completely got over my fear as such I don’t now enjoy flying but I have mastered my fear I have learnt to sit with it, allow it in and be OK with it.
My methods for mastering the fear
Everyone is different so what works for me may not work for you but try some of these things it might help.
- Get a good nights sleep (if you can).
- Try to eat something a few hours before the flight drink lots of water.
- Make sure all your devices or survival tools are near by and fully charged up.
- I meditate before the flight in the departure lounge using Headspace they have a dedicated session for fear of flying which I just loop over and over. The basic premise is that you focus on being grounded and feel the body
- I read and re-read the passage in DARE book about flying and revise the technique (more about DARE below)
- Before take off I normally get a few tracks lined up on my phone and get my headphones on really loud. Noise cancelling headphones are really helpful if you find plane noises an anxiety trigger.
- Get pumped I have found challenging the anxiety is actually a great way of putting it back in a box.
DARE – This is a book I bought at one of the darkest times in my life. Its a guide on tackling anxiety with a technique called DARE detailed below.
Defuse – responding to your anxiety with a whatever or a so what.
Allow – accept and allow your anxious thoughts and feelings allow yourself to sit with it.
Run toward – challenge your anxiety. Feel excited by the feeling of anxiety trick your brain even if you don’t believe it.
Engage – focus on something else like reading or doing the ironing let your body calm back down.
This technique and particularly the passage in the book on flying really helped me. Applying the technique to flying works well, challenging the fear head on.
Finally this video from Will Smith about fear is not only funny but contains great messages on fear.
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