It’s an opportunity most people take for granted: the ability to book a plane ticket, board a flight and enjoy a vacation without being plagued by the fear of flying.
For long-haul trips, flying is usually the ideal way to go — but the fear of flying could hold you back while others are making memories.
When you travel, the journey is half the battle.
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And if you’re feeling jittery during a flight or skipping travel altogether to avoid stepping foot on a plane, here are tips that can help give you the confidence to fly to any destination.
- Meet the pilot before take off
- Focus on different objects
- Bring things to distract you during the flight
- Spend the flight asleep
- Be strategic with seat selection
- Learn about the aircraft
- Trust your travel buddy
1. Meet the pilot before takeoff
Captain Tom Bunn, a retired pilot and licensed therapist, founded SOAR, a program aimed at helping everyone fly successfully, in 1982. Since then, he has helped thousands of people conquer their fear.
Bunn said there are a number of steps he works through with his clients. He encourages them to first try to meet the pilot upon boarding.
“Relinquishing control is an important issue, and if you can meet the person in control, it’s like you have a kinship with the person in control,” Bunn said. “You find out they’re real — not just a voice.”
2. Focus on different objects
Focusing on your breathing with different meditation techniques is another way to calm the nerves.
There’s a specific exercise Bunn encourages clients to practice to reduce stress hormones once they build up.
“It’s an exercise I call ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1,'” Ban said. “First you find something to focus more or less straight on and use that as your focal point.”
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Count five things you can see, hear and touch, said the captain. Then count up to four things you can see, hear, and touch — and so on until you get to one.
“It takes about two minutes, and by the time you do — the stress hormones are pretty much gone, maybe completely,” Bunn said.
“And the special thing about stress hormones is that when they flare up, it causes you to focus on something that’s problematic. So if you keep focusing on that, you increase the stress hormones. But if you can get rid of the stress hormones using ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ — then your mind is free to focus wherever it wants.”
3. Bring things to distract you during the flight
Being distracted can help you forget you’re even on a plane. Bring things with you on the plane that you know you’ll enjoy and can spend a lot of time using.
For example, if there are movies or TV shows you want to watch, download them to your phone or other electronic device so they’re ready to start when you’re on the plane. This can kill a lot of time during the flight. Just make sure you bring headphones!
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Books are another great thing to bring on flights, as well as crossword puzzles and coloring books.
If you are traveling with someone else, you could also bring a deck of cards to play together.
4. Spend the flight asleep
Falling asleep on a plane can be very difficult, especially if you’re feeling anxious, but there are a number of things you can bring to help you fall asleep.
First, one thing that makes sleeping on the plane easier is if you have a very early morning or late night flight. At these times, you will both be more tired and the plane will be darker, making it easier to fall asleep.
Also, bring a travel pillow and blanket for extra comfort.
If you have headphones, you can also play soothing sounds on your phone to help you sleep.
5. Be strategic with location selection
Book your flight early, before seats start filling up, so you can choose a seat that can help you relax.
If you are sitting towards the back of the plane, this area will usually be louder and there will be a lot more traffic with people passing you to use the bathroom.
On the other hand, if you sit in the front sections, it will generally be much calmer and quieter.
6. Learn about the aircraft
Taking the time to research airplanes before boarding one can help you feel more confident about your flight.
Review how airplanes work and the safety features that are in place. This basic understanding of the aircraft could make a big difference to you during your travels and help you feel safer in the air.
Statistically speaking, there is a very small chance of a plane crash. The odds of dying in an accident are actually about one in 11 million, according to many sources.
Another scary factor often involved with flying is turbulence. When turbulence occurs, depending on its severity, it can sometimes make for a scary and bumpy ride.
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Understanding what turbulence is can put your mind at ease. Turbulence occurs when there is some kind of change in the movement of the air around the plane. Most of the time, a little turbulence is no big deal and very common during a flight.
Finding the answers to the questions you have about airplanes can help you feel much better about flying once you know the statistics and have a general understanding of how things work.
7. Trust your travel buddy
If you’re traveling with someone else, lean on that person for extra support.
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Before your trip, let the person know about your fears, and if there are things you know help you, share those things with your travel party so they know what to do if you get stressed.
Also, having someone else there that you feel comfortable with can provide a calming presence for you.
Kimber Crandall contributed reporting.