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How to Tackle Your Fear of Flying

So you’ve made it onto the plane and you’re buckled up and ready to go. Yet your palms are sweating, you feel sick with nerves and you’re struggling to control the urge to grab your bag from the overhead locker and sprint back into the airport.

Sound like a familiar scene? You’re not alone. And despite the fact that we are more likely to be struck by lightning or attacked by a shark than die in a plane crash, around 28% of people in Britain are terrified of flying.

Fearful flyers are plagued by myriad crippling thoughts – what if a bird gets stuck in the engine? Will the pilot fall asleep? What happens if the oxygen fails? But before you give up on flying altogether, here are some tips to help you battle that all-encompassing anxiety, so that you land ready to experience an unforgettable holiday.

Banish airport anxiety

When you’re already fearful of flying, a stressful airport experience is the last thing you need – and tearing through the airport towards your gate with minutes to spare is likely to send those anxiety levels spiralling. It may sound obvious, but ensure you arrive in plenty of time. Distract yourself by looking for bargains in duty free, stopping for a coffee or enjoying a meal. If you’re really keen to escape the hustle and bustle of the main terminal, make use of one of the airport lounges. Here, you’ll find piles of books, magazines, and in some cases, even a cinema to keep you entertained. Most lounges are also close to the departure gates, so it’s only a short walk to your flight.

Know what to expect

For many of us, it is fear of the unknown which stops us in our tracks. These giant machines get us halfway across the world in a matter of hours – but how? What keeps them in the sky? Familiarising yourself with the sights and sounds of flying and getting to know the basics before you travel will help quell the rising panic. Planes have many moving parts, which will rattle, vibrate and whir at times throughout the flight. It’s important to remind yourself that these noises are normal. Flying also over-sensitises your inner ear, so every change in pitch is magnified. Pack noise-cancelling headphones in your hand luggage and plug these in as soon as the pilot signals it is safe to do so. Block out all of that engine noise, as well as the alarming ding of the fasten seatbelt sign.

Distract yourself

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, but good old-fashioned distraction techniques still work wonders. Think about the length of your flight. Do you have enough to entertain yourself? Whether it’s watching a DVD, reading a book or listening to music, be prepared and have your distraction tools close to hand. It’s also a good idea to ensure you have something to keep you entertained when the flight attendant tells you to turn off electronic devices. Pack a lavender sachet to sniff, or take a packet of peppermints to suck on – both of which act as calming devices.

Take a course

If you’re a cynic like me, it’s easy to assume a course is a waste of valuable time and money. After all, is deep breathing really going to banish those terrifying thoughts of planes tumbling from the sky? But they really can make a difference. All major airlines run courses to help nervous flyers conquer their fears. They are often held over a couple of days, and involve tools and techniques to manage anxiety. On some, you can chat to a pilot, who will accompany you on an experience flight and explain every movement and noise. It may also help to share the experience with like-minded individuals.

Speak to your GP

Make an appointment with your GP before you travel to talk over your fears. Whatever you need, be it medication or counselling, they will be able to recommend the best method to help you. Once on board, close your eyes and remember to breathe. Try not to get angry with yourself. Instead, accept you have a phobia and pat yourself on the back for taking the action to tackle it. Try to visualise your destination – think about why you are making the journey, and what you plan to do when you arrive. It’ll help you remember why the anxiety will hopefully all be worth it in the end.

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Written by Tessa Watkins

Formerly a local news editor and reporter covering court cases and crime stories, I’m obsessed with all things travel. Often found exploring a new city and seeking out the world’s best beaches, there are a plethora of destinations I remain desperate to discover. Tweet me @tess1977

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