Ten Tips To Overcome A Fear Of Flying

Don’t let your fear of flying keep you on the ground

fear flyingTip Number One. Dealing with anticipation. “Just put it out of your mind.” It isn’t that easy, but the following technique may help.

Notice what scenes of disaster or thoughts of losing control are present in your mind. Instead of trying to ignore them, go ahead and capture one of these scenes. Then, use your imagination to create a small TV set. Imagine the set is across the room. Then put the scene that is bothering you on the small TV screen. Make the scene black and white, and all the time you are viewing the scene, be absolutely sure to keep the scene enclosed by the framework of the TV cabinet.

Imagine the scene on the TV set is coming from a VCR and you have the remote control in your hand and can run the scene backwards and forwards, freeze-frame, or turn it off.

Tip Number Two. Don’t use Tip Number One on-board. This is a very powerful tool for anticipatory anxiety. This is NOT, however, to be used during an actual flight, as what you need to do then is experience things just as they are without imagination, because imagination makes things worse than they are.

Tip Number Three. Understand “first time anxiety” is to be expected. It’s good to remember that doing anything for the first time causes anxiety. We pilots would not be doing this job unless it was safe. And, insurance companies are no fools; they give us the same insurance rates as non-pilots.

Tip Number Four. Occupy your “visual channel.” Imagination in the “mind’s eye” fuels the fear. What you imagine causes physical tension, which then tends to make you think what you imagine is really taking place. To stop this process, keep the visual part of your mind busy. Buy a number of magazines with splashy color pictures, and take them with you. Just flip through the pictures to keep the “visual” part of your mind too busy to make up imaginary disasters. This is a great time to focus on needlepoint or crossword puzzles if you like those activities.

Tip Number Five. Occupy your mind’s “auditory channel.” You can take a further step by keeping the “auditory” part of your mind busy. Bring along a “Walkman” with several tapes.

Tip Number Six. Take back control. Be very aware that even if you are being pressured by your job or your mate to fly, you slltill have a CHOICE whether you fly or not. Make that choice – versus whatever the alternatives are – a conscious and deliberate one.

Tip Number Six – Part II. Take some more control. Before you board, go to the window of the boarding lounge and MEMORIZE VISUALLY what is outside the jetway and outside the airplane. Use your photographic memory to record in detail what you see. Then, when walking through the jetway, you can remember what is outside; this helps reassure you that there IS an outside and the walls are not able to pressure you.

Tip Number Seven. This is so important it is equal to all the other tips put together. If you don’t do this one, you only have yourself to blame for an awful flight, because it works.

Go up to the cockpit as soon as you go onboard and meet the captain. This keeps you from feeling alone and abandoned to the vast unknowns of the sky. lnstead of feeling you have given up even the slightest control over your destiny, you now have made personal contact with the the people who are in control.

By meeting the pilots, you will discover their sense of competence and confident that they can take good care of you. They will also make more informative announcements during the flight.

Blame it on me; tell them I made you promise to do it.

Tip Number Eight. Take some more control. Check for any “eyeball” air outlets that you can control; turn them on. If not, place your hand near the air vents to prove to yourself that there IS air coming in. Stretch out your arms and examine PHYSICALLY how much space is yours. An aisle seat can give you more VISUAL room, which for many is more important than physical space. If you find yourself having breathing difficulty, hold your breath for one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three at the end of each exhalation and at the end of each inhalation.

Tip Number Nine. On some take-offs, we reduce the power after reaching about eight hundred feet (roughly twenty-seconds after lift-off), which can be frightening if you don’t know what it’s all about. Ask the captain when you meet him or her if the power will be changed significantly after take off, and ask how it will feel.

Tip Number Ten. Expect and understand the physical sensations that are a natural and routine part of flight. Imagine this: you get in an elevator on the ground floor, and press the button for the tenth floor. The door closes, and as the elevator starts to rise, you feel heavy. Then, as the elevator approaches the tenth floor, it has to slow down and stop. As it does, you feel “light-headed.” In an elevator you know what the feeling is about. You are just slowing down your ascent. Though this feels like falling, you aren’t falling at all.

The same thing happens in an airplane when we level off after a climb, or when we reduce power after takeoff.

If you need still more help, e-mail me about your particular difficulty with flying.

About Captain Tom Bunn

According to Boeing, one person in three is afraid to fly. Tips and information on programs to deal with flight anxiety are at Fear of Flying. Immediate counseling for flying can be arranged at http://www.flighthelp.com.

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