You want me to be strapped down and locked into a metal box that you’ve filled with fuel; you’re then going to blast into the air and …….you want me to pay for it!!
Fears and phobias affect people all year round but there are seasonal trends; at this time of year, holiday season, there is a bit of a run on people looking for help with fear of flying. There can be different causes for anxiety or fear of flying.
Most obvious would be having previous experience of a bad flight, lots of turbulence or an emergency landing or even a re-routing or retuning to the airport for some mechanical failure. However, for other people their phobia of flying may come from a feeling of not being in control: they can’t see where they’re going, have no control over the plane and are ‘strapped in’ -it’s similar, but more extreme, to someone who hates being a passenger in a car.
For others claustrophobia may be the cause, especially if they’ve been delayed and had to sit on the plane, not able to get up waiting…. waiting…. waiting…. or perhaps anxiety caused by seeing or in fact having direct experience of someone behaving badly on the plane and having nowhere to run whist for others the cause may have it’s roots outside flying, maybe they were going through a traumatic or challenging life event or going through a stressful period soon before flying and now link the event of flying to the feelings of anxiety and stress from back then.
Anxiety and fear/phobia are based on the fight or flight instinct in us all. When faced with a situation that makes us anxious we have two choices fight or flee, run away. Anxiety produces the adrenalin but there’s nothing to fight against and nowhere to run.
To top it all those with a phobia of flying may also have some guilt mixed in with the fear because, they say, ‘I know I’m being stupid and my problem is spoiling it for my family’. They are disappointed and angry with themselves for feeling this way but can’t seem to change.
The severity of symptoms differs from those who just won’t go anywhere near a plane to those who will take extreme measure to get on the plane because they don’t want to let their family or partner down. Their level of anxiety starts a few weeks or months before the flight (usually at the point of booking) and builds from there, some can’t bring themselves to go shopping or even talk about their holiday because they’re convinced they won’t get there, some will resort to drugs or alcohol to the point of nearly being comatose at the airport and on the plane. They won’t eat, drink, talk on the plane and spend most of the time at the airport and during the flight in the loo.
Reading the internet finds statistics such as one in six adults has a fear of flying – but that you have a 1 in 11 million chance of being involved in an air accident – for travelling by car it’s 1 in 5000. Other facts such as pilots are some of the most highly trained people; that planes are designed to withstand far more than in normal flights and go through regular maintenance, more frequently than your annual service and MOT, and that the pilots and air crew all actually quite like living and therefore wouldn’t fly unless it was safe, are neither here nor there for those anxious about flying – but I wonder how many actually think about these facts.
OK so that’s what and why it is, but what can you do about it?
Here are some things you can usefully do:
1. Take some relaxing music with you – best to steer clear of the upbeat, banging stuff, choose something you find relaxing and calming.
2. Make sure you watch the movie, read a book do puzzles – anything you like so long as you’re focused on something else, even if the movie is the worst one in existence or you’ve watched it a million times before – watch it again.
3. Tell people, be honest, tell the flight attendance and passengers sitting near you – you’ll find most people are understanding and supportive and often the fear reduces once you’ve shared it.
4. It’s best to avoid caffeine or other stimulants, you need to relax not be hyper – but do drink – dehydration can make symptoms worse.
5. Remember to breathe deeply and often… Practise breathing in to a count of 8 and out to a count of 11 – it does take some practice but it’s worth it – the slow breathing ensures there’s enough oxygen in your blood and therefore getting to your brain and focusing on the counting keeps your mind occupied.
6. And now for something more long- term try visualisation and NLP- a few months or weeks before flying:
Begin by sitting with your eyes closed and think about flying;- on a scale from 1 to 10 give yourself a score for how anxious you are – Now use a little NLP to help —
See yourself at a cinema watching a film, the film will be of you going to take a flight.
The film starts in black and white, see yourself travelling to the airport, going through check-in, baggage check, passport control, see yourself at the departure lounge, getting on the plane, finding your seat, strapping in – see yourself sitting on the plane – see the entire journey, take off, flight, landing-
Now see yourself float out of your body and go to the projection booth so you are now watching yourself watching the movie of you going to fly
As soon as you get to the booth, run the film backwards to the beginning but this time it’s in full colour see hear and feel everything, every part of that landing flight, take off, coming out of departures, thorough security, your bag coming backwards through the x-ray machine, the airport and the journey to the airport see it all in reverse.
Now run it forwards again, see everything in colour, but at double the speed if you like you can add some clown circus music to the background – as soon as the film gets to the end see yourself step out of the film, run it backwards and see yourself step into the beginning again – run it forwards again at double speed – do this several times. Each time when it gets to the end step out of the movie and step back into the beginning and run it forwards again faster and faster. Finally run the movie at normal speed see everything and hear everything. You should find that you can’t feel the same way about it.
For some people doing this once is all that’s needed, for others they need to do it more often, some regularly to build up the effects and there are some who need someone to guide them through the process – so find a ‘study buddy’.
If you know of someone who struggles with flying, forward this to them – If it helps, or they need further help, I’d love to hear from them.