Here’s how to conquer your fear of flying
That’s the number of flights that operate safely each day, according to the International Air Transport Association. However, that number pales in comparison to 19.2 million, the estimated number of adult Americans that suffer from a specific phobia.
“Fear of flying or other fears in general could also be described as anxieties about specific objects or situations a person fears not being able to escape,” says Antonio Romano, a clinical therapist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “It’s helpful to share the fact that anxiety is a normal emotion to have when we experience fear of something dangerous.”
However, Romano cautions that if emotional or physical symptoms of anxiety occur when a situation is not really dangerous, it’s time to reassess the fear.
“We need to retrain our bodies to confront our fears and realize that what we perceive as dangerous is actually not so,” says Romano.
Below, Romano shares some tips to conquer your fear of flying:
- Identify your physical symptoms of anxiety and expose yourself to them. For example, if your heart beats quickly when anxious, run on a treadmill to replicate that feeling. If you feel out of breath or light-headed, breathe through a thin straw to simulate that experience. Then, when you get on a plane and have those feelings, you can remember that while it is uncomfortable, there are no dangerous consequences to these physical symptoms.
- Don’t avoid air travel. The important thing to know is that managing anxiety may require feeling uncomfortable, but symptoms can be endured and subside over time. Face your fear long enough to experience that a drop in anxiety will occur.
- Use mindfulness exercises. Breathing slowly with your belly and visualizing yourself as light like the clouds or a bird is a good way to change your thinking and increase relaxation.
“There are many apps about relaxation and mindfulness that can be downloaded on your phone for free,” says Romano. “It’s also helpful to try some breathing exercises before your flight, so if anxiety starts to emerge in the air, you know how to help yourself calm down.”
Seeing a professional equipped with more strategies to deal with anxiety could also help you conquer your fears and take to the skies.
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