Overcoming fear of flying

With so many people suffering from fear of flying these days, it is helpful to know you are not alone. Perhaps you have found yourself putting off - or foregoing altogether - precious holidays with loved ones, visting relatives abroad, or declining work which involves periodic flying. This can lead to tension and conflict in relationships and perhaps a sense of isolation and avoidance. Often it is accompanied by a broader underlying anxiety. With practice and patience you can overcome what lies beneath your fear of flying and recover, gaining a real sense of achievement and enhance your relationships with others and travel experience. 

Fear of flying is known as aviophobia. It is recorded that 25% of the population suffer from some level of anxiety when flying. Scientifically, flying phobia is a combination of different phobias such as claustrophobia and acrophobia. Symptoms range from feeling discomfort and anxiety prior to and during flight, to including excessive sweating, muscle tension and trembling, increased heart rate, a sensation of panic and heart palpitations. 

There are various fear-of-flying treatments that you can opt for to overcome your phobia without using anxiety drugs, such as mindfulness cognitive behavioural therapy, and the newest virtual reality fear-of-flying treatments. Ultimately, the aim is to help manage your fears, allowing a bearable and even enjoyable flight by way of managing your symptoms of anxiety and panic.  

Exploring negative thoughts, emotions, feelings and behaviour that contribute to trigger anxiety can help change how you react and behave to flying. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and relaxation breathing techniques are used to calm the central nervious system to move away from fight, flight, freeze mode towards calm, rest and relax mode. Education, preparation and CBT are all part of the process of learing to overcome your fear of flying.  

Here are some Fear of Flying tips:

1. Let the crew, check in and flight attendants know for boarding purposes. You need not be embarrassed as they are trained and will safely support you during flight. 

2. Allow your body to completely relax using mindfulness cognitive behavioural relaxation and breathing techniques.

3. Choose a specific seat in the cabin prior to booking.

4. Use distraction methods that keep your mind busy and occupied.

5. Attend therapy specifically for fear of flying where you are able to experience a flight simulator as part of your treatment plan.

6. Avoid caffeine products which may exacerbate anxiety. Drink water to prevent dehydration and to calm nerves.

Enjoy your flight!

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Written by Anthea Hollingworth Psychotherapist and Counsellor MSc. MBACP (Accred)

Anthea Hollingworth MBACP, Psychodynamic Psychotherapist and Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. I offer a specialist Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment programme specifically for Fear of Flying, aviophobia. Should you wish to contact me please visit www.counsellingclinic.co.uk. www.london.flightexperience.co.uk… Read more

Written by Anthea Hollingworth Psychotherapist and Counsellor MSc. MBACP (Accred)

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