I recently overheard a conversation….
Said person number one as she scrolled through her phone. Her friend responding, worriedly said;
“What is it?”
Person number one replied;
“Flights are starting again next month, that means we might be able to go.”
A fear of flying
40% of people experience some form of fear of flying and this lady appeared to be one of them. As the conversation went on it became apparent that she has a strong fear of flying and has a summer holiday with her family booked.
When the corona virus hit and holidays started to be cancelled she found some comfort, whilst she would miss the experience of the holiday, the relief she felt was greater than the sadness of missing the holiday. It was like a weight off her shoulders that she wouldn’t have to endure the discomfort the fear of flying brings in the lead up to a flight, during a flight and whilst she is on a holiday.
I don’t suppose this lady is the only person feeling like that. There are many people around the World waiting with bated breath right now to see whether they will be able to go on their much-needed holiday. Businesses are wondering when they can begin travelling for work again but those that have a fear of flying are crossing their fingers and hoping most travel will be banned for a little while longer.
When you suffer with aerophobia, taking a flight is bad enough, but to have the rollercoaster of anxiety Vs relief in the build-up it can be a real struggle. Here are my top five tips for managing your anxiety in the lead up to a flight. Specifically, when you don’t know whether you should be happy you don’t have to take the flight or anxious that you will be flying.
Take ownership of your decisions
So often in life we spend time struggling for control. When really, we don’t have all that much control. We can’t control the weather, decisions that other people make or the traffic. You cannot control the decision of the airline, the Government, or the regulations in the other country. But you can control the choices you make. The things that you do. Remind yourself that you chose to fly. Despite a fear of flying you took control of your reactions and booked the flight. Remind yourself that upon booking the flight you did have a choice and you said yes to that choice. In the moment, the benefits of taking the flight outweighed the negatives of your fear of flying. Remind yourself of all the positives and then think about what you can be in control of. If your flight goes ahead how will you travel to the airport? That choice is something you are in control of. What time will you arrive at the airport? What will you do with your time in the airport? What will you do with your time whilst on the plane? Spend time putting yourself in full control of the things that you can control. By taking control of a large part of your life the parts you cannot control can feel less overwhelming.
Plan for all eventualities
Right now, I have a flight booked to Greece, for the end of July. Our plan is to holiday with extended family (parents, siblings, aunt, uncle, cousins and family friends). It’s a celebration holiday. We are all flying on different days, with different airlines, to different airports. We all have to take a ferry to the small island we are visiting, and our hotel is confirmed by email but nothing more! There are a lot of variables that must align for us all to end up in Greece at all, let alone on the island in the same hotel. I am completely with everyone who wants to shout at me “but how can I plan when there are so many things to consider”.
So let’s be simple about it together, plan for if you go and plan for if you don’t. Plan the things you will do on your holiday; this doesn’t mean you have to purchase tickets right now but write your daily plan. And then plan for what you will do if you don’t go on your trip. Will you still take time off work? Will you have day trips at home? You may choose to not take the time from work and have your holiday later when there are more options, or you may choose to staycation and treat the week like a holiday at home. You can come back to the intricacies of each situation later.
Take everything step by step, one day at a time
The things that you can be in control of will change day by day. The plans you are making will be able to become more solid day by day. It is easy to get anxious and want everything to be a known. Often with anxiety – and a fear of flying is an anxiety disorder – the way to alleviate the anxiety is to have a plan that is set in stone. In the current situation this cannot happen. The situation is fluid. Write your two plans out separately, maybe you would like to have a separate notebook for “going” and “not going” or perhaps two separate files on the computer, two notes on your phone. Whatever works for you and helps you to feel more in the driving seat of your life. When you hear news of a change go back to your plan and see if there is anything that can become more of a solid plan. The feeling of taking charge of your plans can help you to feel more in charge of the overall situation.
Try to find your accepting self
As mentioned in the previous points there will be things that you can control and things you cannot. Try to find a part of you that can accept there are things you cannot control but take as much charge as you can of the process. Write a to do list in your planner of the things you need to do once you have more information. For example, if you do not want to book your airport parking until you know you will definitely be flying write it on your list of things to do as you get more information. Choose the parking provider you would like to use, write the details of how to book on your list, write the price down to add to your budget. With every nugget of information that you receive about holidaying abroad check through your to do list and complete anything that can be completed with the new information you have. Write anything that is of concern to you with regards to your booking on your to do list. You have now taken control of your holiday plans. By doing this the only unknown will be which of the two plans you follow.
Anxiety is your brain trying to keep you alive
When your brain perceives something as a danger it will flick into the fight or flight response to save your life. Your body will prepare you to either run for your life or fight for your life. Unfortunately, your brain does not recognise its fear of flying as irrational. There are definitely risks to flying but they are far smaller than many of the risks you take every day. Your brain has calculated its response in a way that is out of proportion to the risk you are facing. It is difficult if not impossible to change that without using specific techniques. Remember these two key points when managing your anxiety;
- Abdominal breathing (diaphragmatic breathing). Put your hand on your belly button and watch it rise and fall. When you are in the fight or flight response the muscles around your chest tighten making chest breathing more difficult, this can lead to hyperventilation. (Abdominal breathing is the best way to breathe all the time).
- Use your senses to reactivate your front brain. Take yourself outside and to a tree. Smell some flowers nearby, touch the bark and the leaves – notice the difference. Look at the colour of the sky and think about how it differs to yesterday’s sky. Listen – what can you hear?
If you have a flight coming up and you have a fear of flying check out my fear of flying quick fix online session. This seventy five minute hypnotherapy session will help you to understand why your body is behaving in this way, give you solutions to restore it and move away from your fear of flying so that you cannot remember ever being concerned about it. It could in fact become so commonplace that you recognise why the cabin crew sometimes look almost bored. This session is available to watch online immediately, just book, watch, listen and fly away!