The magic of air travel. How to overcome the fear of flying?

Reading time 🕗 4 minutes | March 18, 2024 | This material was prepared by Politykazdrowotna.com

For some, the prospect of traveling by air is associated with a fear of flying, and this can thwart vacation plans or affect work life. How do you deal with it, and can you love flying? For those suffering from a fear of flying by air, we explain how to effectively prepare for travel so that every flight is a pleasure.

✅ From this article, you will learn:

  • Crew members are trained in aviation medicine and first aid.
  • Knowledge of aviation can help combat the fear of flying.
  • Relaxation techniques and training can ease feelings of anxiety.
  • Frequent air travel can help you adjust to flying.
  • Avoiding alcohol on board and drinking water contribute to a more comfortable trip.
  • If the above methods are not effective enough, the help of a specialist can prove invaluable.
  • Dealing with anxiety takes work, but it is possible to love flying.

Fear of flying an airplane — what is its cause?

The development of air travel has opened the door to entirely new opportunities for all enthusiasts of exploring the world. Today, large distances between continents are no longer any obstacle, and a trip around the world can be made literally on a weekend. Airplanes also guarantee a new quality in terms of business development.

Fast, safe, in comfort — with a view outside the window that never gets boring. Traveling is an ideal break from everyday duties, teaches us new things and helps us expand our horizons. 

In this part of the text, we will take a closer look at how the fear of flying a plane manifests itself. We will answer the question of how to control the anxiety and what can be caused by the aggravation of its symptoms. People with a fear of flying — this is material for you!

Symptoms of fear of flying

"Fear of flying, or so-called aviophobia, sometimes results from misconceptions about the principles of aircraft, their technical capabilities. The severity of the symptoms of fear of flying can also be caused by the presence of other anxiety syndromes such as claustrophobia associated with the fear of being in small, enclosed spaces or even fear of heights. Often the fear of flying is also a consequence of negative experiences during previous flights, caused, for example, by turbulence,'' explains Dominika Wrońska, a psychologist specializing in working with anxiety.

Senior woman and girl looking through window  on airplane

It is worth noting that this type of fear is not an uncommon phenomenon — after all, the ground, not the sky, is our natural environment. Fear of flying often primarily affects people who have never traveled by air and is triggered by the so-called fear of the unknown, lack of control over the situation and one's own fate in an emergency situation, which directly affects the sense of security. Fortunately, there are effective methods for dealing with the symptoms of fear of flying by plane.

How to master the fear of flying?

"In the course of my professional practice, there have been many people who have successfully overcome their fears and today enjoy traveling in the skies. How to overcome the fear of flying and enjoy the journey? Firstly, start by properly diagnosing the source of the problem. It's worth asking yourself what really causes anxiety and discomfort'', emphasizes expert D. Wrońska.

How to combat the fear of flying? Tips from an expert!

How not to be afraid of flying? Proper preparation for air travel is key to minimizing the symptoms of fear of flying. So before you board a plane, be sure to read our tips below. We hope they will help you successfully overcome your phobia of flying.

Trust your cabin crew members

If you are a person with a fear of flying, it is essential to inform the crew of this fact as soon as you board the plane. Flight attendants always do their best to have such a person closer to them, give them special care and support, keep their spirits up and reassure them.

“The first flight attendants who appeared on airplanes in the 1930s had to be certified nurses. Today, flight attendants are no longer required to have such an education, but the “care gene” is essential to the job. This is not something that can be learned from a book or in a single lecture. 

Already during the recruitment process, attention is paid to the appropriate predisposition of the candidate to work on board the aircraft. Then the multi-week training begins. It is an intensive course covering normal and emergency procedures, crew resource management, evacuation exercises in an aircraft simulator and pool, passenger service issues and much more. 

Every year, each crew member undergoes several days of periodic training and a line-check, or check flight, under the supervision of an instructor. Literally, everything is checked: from knowledge of procedures and equipment to behavior on board. Only passing the line-check allows you to fly for the next year,'' says Kajetan Gawarecki, a medical instructor for LOT Polish Airlines, an experienced nurse and university lecturer. 

"All cabin crew members are trained in aviation medicine and the principles of advanced emergency first aid. Cabin crew never underestimate a passenger's ill health, as a headache on an airplane, for example, can be a symptom of hypoxia, dehydration or severe stress. The crew must know how to help,'' the instructor added.

Flight crew at the airport

Ensure the right level of knowledge

Often in overcoming the fear of air travel, a good dose of aviation trivia can be very helpful. How many procedures must be met for an aircraft to be allowed to fly? How is turbulence created? Why are the windows in an airplane rounded and composed of as many as three layers? What makes planes fly? Is air travel safe?

Answering just these few questions above can entirely change the optics. Making friends with facts, statistics and expert statements can really work wonders. The options are many — videos, books, scientific articles and even podcasts! 

Think about alleviating perceived anxiety through relaxation techniques

Some people may also find it very helpful to implement relaxation training. Proper practice of deep breathing techniques, visualization and proper muscle tensing, such as Jacobson training or Schultz physiological training, can be invaluable in overcoming the fear of flying. Relaxation techniques can also be used, and favorite recordings can simply be taken with you on the plane.

When flying, it's also a good idea to carry a favorite book, an engaging podcast (such as our Flight Podcast) or pre-downloaded episodes of travel documentaries. Anything to take your mind off the bad thoughts and put them on a wholly different track.

Girl in sleep mask and boy with headphones sleep on plane

Just fly — training makes perfect

This saying holds true in virtually every area of life. Avoiding air travel is not a good idea; on the contrary, the more flights on account, the more each successive one becomes a completely normal, familiar activity. After a while, every potentially suspicious sound, every unexpected twitch is no longer so impressive. Overcoming the fear of flying is really just a matter of time.

Give up stimulants, choose water - the simplest ways to treat anxiety

How to overcome the fear of flying? Many people use alcohol as a way to tame their fear of flying. Unfortunately, firstly, after its consumption, the fear will not go away — on the contrary, it can intensify anxiety, and in addition, it often intensifies the discomfort associated with pressure changes in the aircraft.

It is also worth mentioning that alcohol consumption accelerates dehydration of the body and increases fatigue. If we want to take care of ourselves, the best solution is to drink water regularly throughout the flight. A beautiful, hydrated complexion upon arrival will be the body's best form of thanks, and water — a great way to combat jet lag.

Young woman drinks water while flying on a plane

And if all this is not enough? Don't be afraid to ask for help from a specialist

If all the above methods prove insufficient, and flying anxiety disorder continues to accompany you, it is worth seeking appropriate support from a specialist.

"I do cognitive-behavioral therapy and recommend a step-by-step approach to the subject of flying anxiety: there is an office part where we discuss the problem, there are imaginal techniques and various forms of exposure, for example, the use of simulators. This is worth considering,'' says Dominika Wrońska. 

“I remember a patient who had to fly to Australia regularly as part of his job duties. It was a lot of stress for him, so he began to seek professional help. Today, he uses airline services much more calmly and confidently. There are also patients who have gone from anxiety to deriving great pleasure and joy from traveling in the skies. It really is possible,'' the psychologist argues.

Summary

Air travel offers the opportunity to explore new places, learn about different cultures and experience entirely new things, but a fear of flying can effectively thwart travel plans. Standing face to face with it, you have to answer the question, which is stronger: the phobia of flying or the dream? Treating a fear of air travel takes work, but with full commitment, loving flying is truly possible.

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