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If You Have Fear of Flying, Read This!

If You Have Fear of Flying, Read This!

We’ve all heard it said. Statistically, “they” say, flying is the safest form of travel. Sure. OK. But when you’re flying up into the air in a huge piece of heavy metal, it certainly doesn’t seem likely. I actually love to fly. I get excited by the idea of going anywhere on an airplane. But that doesn’t mean my imagination doesn’t go wild during takeoff.

According to Lucas van Gerwen, an aviation psychologist and director of the VALK Foundation, which studies how to treat flying fears, more than 26 million Americans suffer from a fear of flying.

For many people, a fear of flying stems from the fact that they don’t really understand just how airplanes work. For others, a lack of being in control of their vehicle can be the cause of the fear. In other cases, experiencing a bad flight—bumpy or one with some sort of mechanical failure—can contribute to the fear. While in other cases, simply hearing about a plane crash can cause the fear to surface.

Whatever is causing your fear, you can certainly overcome it. Try these tips and learn how to fly comfortably next time.

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1. You should learn how a plane works.

Go to the library and find a book on flight. There are many (I should know—I have son who is obsessed with flying). Or go online and read about aerodynamics. While some of the information might make you turn glassy-eyed and make you feel like you’re in high school physics again, some of the information will be very useful. For example, according to National Geographic Online: “Essentially, to keep in the air, a plane relies on two forces—the thrust of the engine and the uplift of the wings. Just like a bird’s wings, when a plane’s wings move through the air, air flowing over the curved top surface of the wing moves faster than the air flowing on the bottom surface, decreasing the pressure on top, thereby creating uplift and keeping a plane in the air. The engine of a plane works to create high pressure and forward momentum to propel the plane forward: modern jet engines mean that planes can fly higher, faster and more efficiently than at any time before.”

2. You should produce oxytocin.

“I should do what?” you ask. Yes. You can, according to SOAR founder Tom Bunn, encourage your body to produce oxytocin which, in turn suppresses your amygdala. Your amygdala is the part of your brain that stores memories of fear and responses to it.

“The trick to this whole approach of fighting flight anxieties,” he says, “is finding ways to shut down the amygdala …The best way,” he says, “is to encourage your body to produce the hormone oxytocin, which banishes fearful thoughts. Women produce this chemical particularly well by thinking of nursing a child, men by contemplating sex. Not that I should act on such thoughts aboard a plane,” he adds.

“This isn’t about you telling someone, ‘I’m having a panic attack. Let’s sneak into the bathroom together,’ ” Bunn says with a laugh. “Instead,” he says, “imagine your dog looking at you. Your dog looking at you like you’re the only person in the world also produces oxytocin in you,” he says. “And, unlike with people, you can always depend on your dog to look at you like this.”

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3. You should find the app for that.

An app? Of course there’s an app—isn’t there always? The VALK foundation developed an app that can walk you through your flight. It works in airplane mode, of course, and there is even a panic button during the flight to help calm you down. There is a mini-aviation course, recommended exercises and relaxtion techniques as well as other helpful information.

You can download the app here.

4. You should check the weather.

Go online and find out what the weather will be like between your take off and landing points. Knowing that there might be a thunderstorm over the Midwest or wherever will prepare you for any turbulence you might encounter along the way.

According to National Geographic: “Turbulence—that bouncy, dipping sensation experienced often when we fly—can be the biggest cause of panic among nervous fliers when they are in the air, but turbulence is nothing really to worry about. Turbulence is caused when a plane flies into different types of air pressure or air currents, notably thunderstorms, by air flow over mountains or weather frontal boundariess. These waves are spontaneously generated and associated with jet streams at high altitudes, near the cruising levels for airplanes. When a plane flies through turbulence, the sensation is like being in a small boat on a stormy sea. Although the shakiness can cause panic, induce travel sickness and cause minor injuries, it’s important to know that the plane itself is in no real danger.”

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5. You should eat.

Really? You’re thinking. I don’t think I should I eat. No, really. You should. According to an article in National Geographic, “A report conducted by the Alpha Airports Group (AAG) found that around three-quarters of the 1,122 members of the general public surveyed admitted to being scared of flying—with eight per cent stating that they refused to get on a plane at all.

The study also claims that in-flight meals can help passengers overcome their fears, by breaking up the monotony of flying and providing passengers with an activity.

Enjoying an in-flight meal can help distract you from fears of flying. But what you eat on the flight can be equally as important too as the nutritional content of food can naturally help you to relax. Dishes containing carbohydrates and fats in the form of pasta, biscuits or cheese create lipids in the bloodstream, which help you to relax.”

So eat up! It might help after all!

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6. You should go slow.

If your fear of flying starts when you go to the airport, then go to the airport before you ever take a flight. Call ahead and ask if you can have a tour (this is easier if you have kids—or friends with kids). Visit the terminal. Hang out for a bit. Get comfortable in the airport. If you were trying to overcome a fear of horses, you wouldn’t go jump on a horse and gallop away, right? No. You’d go meet a horse and maybe stand next to him for a while. Or pet him. You’d build up your exposure. So, go to an airshow or an aviation museum. Get comfortable with the idea of planes. Then, take a flight. Maybe take a discovery flight in a small plane. Small planes are actually great exposure to flying because you are practically in the cockpit and you can see everything that’s going on. You can talk to the pilot. Then start flying. And try to fly often so you don’t lose the progress you’ve made. Use different breathing and meditation techniques to keep yourself on the airplane and get comfortable being there. Then, do it again.

Have you overcome a fear of flying? How did you do it? Let us know!

Featured photo credit: ABC via fogsmoviereviews.files.wordpress.com

More by this author

Michelle Kennedy Hogan

Michelle is an explorer, editor, author of 15 books, and mom of eight.

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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