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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 August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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