Overcoming Your Fear of Flying
Once upon a time (say, the 1960s), air travel was a glamorous business. The jet-setters wore their finest furs and sipped on champagne while cruising at 35,000 feet. Your air hostesses looked like movie stars, and the onboard meal was likely lobster or beef.
Flight then was an Experience. A luxury. Now, it is all about packing as many bodies in as possible (with budget airline VivaColombia thinking about removing seats altogether and making passengers stand for the duration of their flight) and charging as much as possible for things like checked luggage and legroom. And for some, air travel is also all about anxiety.
Fear of flying, also known as aviophobia, is related to a fear of heights and a fear of confined spaces. Common flight fears also include fear of bodily harm or death if the plane crashes, fear of not having your ears pop when they’re supposed to, or fear of what would happen if your plane is the victim of a terrorist hijacking attempt. It is a real and often-debilitating fear, but also a pretty unavoidable one: most people, at some point in their lives, will have to take a plane somewhere. So as we head into the holiday season and we board planes to visit family or escape to tropical getaways, let’s think about ways to make the experience less terrifying. Possibly even enjoyable!
Thinking too hard about the mechanics of what’s happening to you while in mid-air can be a dangerous game, even for those who aren’t particularly nervous flyers. It can be easy to find yourself believing that your focused attention is literally the only thing keeping a massive metal tube aloft.
But it’s not! So while you let the plane get on with its task of keeping you in the air, make sure you have lots of other things to keep your brain occupied.
Make sure your carry-on bag is packed with distraction in mind: consider bringing a book you’ve already started and are deeply engrossed in, or download a season of a television show you love. Anything that helps the airplane feel like home will ease your stress.
Thinking about your destination can also help. Have you planned out all your sightseeing adventures yet, or really fully looked into the amenities at that tropical resort you’re en route to for your first vacation in three years? Headed home for the holidays? Now’s the perfect time to craft pleasant but vague responses to all the questions you’ll be fielding from your great-aunt!
Do your homework
Of course, it’s impossible to completely turn your brain off while flying, so if your mind starts to wander to the physics of air travel, it’s best to make sure those thoughts are informed ones. You’ve probably already been told by friends, family, and well-meaning strangers who’ve noticed your white knuckles on your arm rests, but it’s really true: air travel is safe. You are safer in that metal tube hurtling through the sky than you were in the metal box you drove to get to the airport.
The National Safety Council reports that your chances of dying in a motor vehicle crash are 1 in 114. However, your odds of dying as a result of “air and space transport incidents” are 1 in 9,821.
If those odds still feel too high, consider learning about how an airplane works and all the safety measures in place. Things like the backup parts that planes carry in case something breaks. Talk to your flight attendants about the likelihood of there being turbulence, so it’s not a surprise if it happens. And do a little research into what “turbulence” actually means. Conde Nast Traveler reports that most airplanes can handle up to 5 G’s of turbulence, and all are built to sustain at least 2.5. In mild turbulence G-forces vary between .8 and 1.2 G’s. Moderate is from .6 to 1.4 G’s, and severe is from .4 to .6 G’s.
Basically, you’re fine. If you feel nervous during a flight, consider downloading the SOAR app. The app has lots of useful calming tools, including a G force measurer, so that you can see with your own eyes that you are fine.
Breathe, breathe, breathe
When we’re stressed, our breathing patterns often change. Breath becomes shorter, quicker, and more shallow, which can sometimes lead to hyperventilation and generally increases a feeling that you are unsafe. Using breath techniques to shift those patterns can activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is often called the relaxation response. Here are a few to try:
- The 4-7-8 Exercise: Sit up straight in your chair, and place your tongue just behind your top front teeth. Exhale all your breath completely through your mouth, making a “woosh” sound. Then close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale to a count of eight. This is one breath cycle. Repeat the cycle three more times.
- The 10 Second Grip: Grip the armrests of your chair and contract all of the muscles in your arms, legs, and stomach. Hold the contraction for 10 seconds, then take a deep breath in and relax everything as you exhale. Repeat.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing: This one takes a bit of practice to get the hang of, so best to make sure you have it figured out before you get on the plane. Sit comfortably, and close your eyes. Press your right thumb into your right nostril, blocking air flow, and breath in deeply through the left nostril. Hold the breath and the top of the inhale and use your ring finger or pinky finger to block the left nostril as you release your thumb, then exhale out of the right nostril. Then inhale through your right nostril, close it off with your thumb, and exhale through the left. Continue this pattern.
Look to the herbal remedies
Sometimes we need a little help from our plant-based friends to get through situations of high stress and anxiety. Consider essential oils, which are highly concentrated plant extracts used for healing or somatic pleasure. Lavender is a classic essential oil for calming and soothing the mind in times of high stress. Try rubbing a lavender balm on your temples, or try putting a couple drops of lavender oil into a diffuser necklace to keep the calming effects going throughout the flight.
We’re also pleased to report that our own EASE Magnesium Spray is available in a travel size. The spray enters the bloodstream directly through your skin, so within 90 seconds you may notice an increased sense of calm. Perfect for that unexpected turbulence that the flight attendants promised you would not have to deal with on this flight, because it was supposed to be a clear and sunny day.
And good luck out there, you world travellers–we promise you’ll be just fine.
Want to carry calm with you wherever you go? Look no further than EASE Magnesium. EASE enters your bloodstream directly and goes to work immediately. It eases aches and pains, encourages relaxation, and improves sleep. Get it today, see results today!
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