Flying is by far the safest way to travel today; The risk of your worst nightmare about a total accident and a certain death becoming a reality is about 0.00001% – or one in ten million. It is less likely to perish in an air crash than to be struck by lightning or to die from food poisoning. And who has not heard it that it is far much more dangerous to get into a car than an airplane? How is it that most people feel safe and without sitting in a car while one in five Swedes are afraid to fly?
The phenomenon is called aerophobia and its character may look different from person to person, but typically a fear of not being in control of oneself or the situation, that one’s fate lies in someone else’s hands. It may also be due to claustrophobia, a fear of closed spaces; Social Phobia; or simply height fear. The symptoms can be unpleasant and the phobia itself difficult to overcome, but there are ways, and they are many. We have listed here some tips for those who want to defeat your fears.
Before the trip:
If you suffer from chronic aviation, there is professional help available. Going to a psychotherapist can help you understand when and why you are scared at first – no one is born with phobias. The fear may have arisen in connection with other stressors that are now unconsciously associated with flight, and understanding the mechanisms behind makes it easier to process. One can also turn to a support group or via the internet to take part in interactive exercises based on cognitive behavioral therapy. As a last resort if it feels like nothing else is biting, you can get drugs prescribed that relieve the stress symptoms. Even though it is unused in your pocket, the knowledge of having it at hand can calm down. However, it should be pointed out that drugs do not cure the fear permanently, but only the temporary symptoms.
Get acquainted with the aircraft
Whatever is causing the fear, it helps to know as much as possible about what’s going on up there in the air. The situation may feel uncomfortable to you and things like unknown sounds or turbulence can make it worse if you do not know what is normal. There are informative films to see, if in principle everything you could ever wonder: the technical details of the aircraft, the extremely accurate safety regulations and all sorts of different sounds; everything from landing gear to seat belt clicking. Did you know that for every hour the aircraft spends in the air, it goes through an average of eleven hours of maintenance when it is on the ground? It is seen and repaired constantly and carefully by personnel who know the aircraft as well as they can their trouser pockets.
Find out weather conditions
Turbulence is the shaking you feel when the plane flies through normal weather conditions such as clouds or wind. The small shakes may feel uncomfortable to many, but they are as normal and expected during a flight as it is to roll over a gravel grain when driving a car. Finding out what the weather looks like on the route you are about to take can help you anticipate, and thus steel yourself – a monster is so much less in the daylight.
Take care of the body
Make sure you get enough rest before a flight, that everything is as normal as possible and that the body is doing well. Eat a balanced diet and preferably avoid both coffee and alcohol – this also applies during the flight; Both fluids are dehydrating and make it harder for your body to adapt to the conditions up there. In addition, alcohol can reinforce the feeling of not having control over one’s own body, which only causes even more stress and only makes it harder to get into an aircraft in the future.
During the flight:
Distract the brain
Many people in the world suffer from stress and anxiety, whether in the air or on the ground. Emotions often come from an insecurity that can be difficult to put your finger on, but there are simple but effective techniques you can use to increase control of these emotions. Bring or do something that reminds you of a safe place. A good example is to watch a movie you have already seen and enjoy (preferably not a disaster or horror movie) or to read a book you have already read, one that you may at that time associate with such a harmless place as the hammock or favorite armchair at home in the living room – something that is thus associated with a memory, one that is strong enough to hold your attention and make time go by.
Visualize the destination
Promoting strong, positive images of the journey’s goals is an excellent tip for fighting stress and conquering their fears. Imagine a few hours ahead, fantasizing that you are in your holiday paradise and that everything is just as magical as you dreamed it would be. Whether the magical place is a beautiful and quiet sandy beach or a hike in the mountains, it helps to focus on why you chose to travel over the main roof. In a stressful situation, it is easy for the thoughts to slip away from one and focus on what is uncomfortable, so bring a physical photo with you; something holding in and watching, can help you.
In addition to keeping your brain occupied with thinking about something else, it’s good to touch you. Many flights take several hours and it is important to keep blood circulation going. This is especially important for those who are afraid of flying; not only does it negatively affect your body to sit still in the same position for a longer period – it’s just as bad for everyone – but also because the goal for you is to make everything seem as normal as possible, so that you can feel as safe in the air as on land. If the aircraft is neither in landing nor take-off position, it is free to release the seat belt and stretch the legs. Other good tips are to perform breathing exercises, a bit of a form of meditation. In severe stress it is common to hyperventilate, focusing on breathing will make it easier for you to calm down.
You’re not alone
Research has shown that about one in five Swedes are afraid to fly – just knowing that one is not alone can help. Keep in mind that cabin crew are there to primarily help passengers with what they might need. They are well aware that aviation fears are common, and know what they can do to help. If you feel anxious during the process, or if it is something you are wondering about, just ask and you will get an answer. The most important thing about an airplane is, after all, about safety, that everyone should be able to feel safe.