- Sunday, 11 December 2022
Up to 40% of Americans have some sort of flying anxiety, from fearing a plane crash to worries about close contact with others. Or, like me, they don’t want to be stuck. Still, others dread navigating the airport, worrying their valuables might be lost or that they could encounter an issue with security doubting their intentions. Flying anxiety has become such an issue that some airlines like British Airways even offer courses, such as their “Flying with Confidence” one-day class, to get you back in the air.
There’s likely even more of a spike in flight anxiety thanks to the pandemic, according to Susan Zinn, a psychotherapist and author of “The Epiphanies Project.” “That is why there’s been an uptick in airplane phobias, fear of flying, and feeling out of control, or road or flight rage — people all of a sudden get triggered that bring them back to a time in our recent past where they felt so out of control,” Zinn said.
Here’s what experts say we can do to reduce our anxieties about airplanes : Expose yourself to the aspects of flying (preferably with a mental health professional)
Find a deep breathing method that works for you : It may be an annoying suggestion to hear, but breathing exercises are often given as a recommendation for anxiety because they work. Zinn said she often suggests her patients practice intentional breathing exercises, like five-finger breathing, where you take deep inhales and exhales as you trace the outline of your hand. Doing this can help calm the panic that arises before it turns into a full panic attack, Zinn said.
Pack some sour candy in your carry on : Zinn also suggested eating some sour candy, such as a WarHead, to force your brain back into reality. The candy’s tartness can help you better focus on the moment rather than the fear or “what if?” during flying. It’s another way to practice mindfulness.
Learn the “why” behind air bumps : Adam Banks, a retired pilot based in New York, said the turbulence is one of the most concerning parts of flying for anxious passengers. Understanding what it is might help you see it as more normal and less of a sign of impending doom.
“Turbulence is just shifting winds. If you fly into a puffy cloud, the airplane is going to get a bump,” he said. “Airplanes are designed to handle these bumps. If you’re sitting over the wing, you can see the wings flex as they absorb turbulence. Turbulence might feel like the airplane is moving around thousands of feet, the reality is the airplane is probably only being jostled a few feet.”
Ground yourself in facts : Zinn said that dealing with both physical anxiety and our mind’s perception of danger plays a role in calming down, so statistics might help. For example, the annual risk of dying in a plane crash is only one in 11 million. You are much more likely to die from sunstroke, a bee sting, consuming a hot substance or even being attacked by a dog.