Overcome your fear of flying with these calming tips

Overcome your fear of flying with these calming tips

It’s an opportunity most people take for granted: the ability to book a plane ticket, board a flight and enjoy a vacation without being plagued by a fear of flying.

For trips of long distances, flying is typically the ideal way to go — but a fear of flying could leave you staying behind while others are making memories.

When traveling, the journey is half the battle.

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And if you find yourself filled with nervousness during a flight, or are passing up on trips completely to avoid having to set foot on a plane, here are tips that can help give you the confidence to fly to any destination. 

A fear of flying can greatly impact a vacation. Try some wise tips to reach a place of comfort with flying.  (iStock)

  1. Meet the pilot before takeoff
  2. Focus on different objects
  3. Bring things to distract yourself while in flight
  4. Spend the flight asleep
  5. Be strategic with seat choice
  6. Learn about the aircraft
  7. Put trust in your travel buddy

1. Meet the pilot before takeoff

Captain Tom Bunn, a retired pilot and licensed therapist, established SOAR, a program aimed at helping everyone fly successfully, in 1982. He’s since assisted thousands of people as they conquer their fear. 

Bunn said there is a series of steps he works on with his clients. He encourages them to first try to meet the pilot when boarding.

“Giving up control is a major issue, and if you can meet the person that has the control, it’s kind of like then you have a kinship with the person who does have the control,” Bunn said. “You find out they’re real — not just a voice.”

Airplane cockpit

Sharing a short exchange with the pilot pre-flight can help you feel better about the experience, said one expert. (iStock)

2. Focus on different objects 

Focusing on your breathing with different meditation techniques is another way to calm the nerves.

There is a specific exercise that Bunn encourages clients to practice to lower stress hormones once they build up. 

“It’s an exercise I call ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1,’” Bunn said. “You will first find something to focus on more or less straight ahead and use that as your focus point.”

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Count five things you can see, hear and touch, said the captain. Then, count to four things you can see, hear and touch — and so on down until you get to one.

“It takes about two minutes and by the time you do that — the stress hormones are pretty much gone, maybe totally gone,” Bunn said. 

“And the particular thing about stress hormones is that when they’re kicking around, it forces you to focus on something that’s problematic. So if you keep focusing on it, you increase stress hormones. But if you can get rid of the stress hormones by using the ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ — then your mind is free to focus where you want to.”

A young boy watching a movie on a plane

If you like watching movies or TV shows to pass the time, bring a device on the plane that allows you to do so. Some planes have built in TVs in the backs of each chair. Either way, make sure you bring along compatible headphones. (Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

3. Bring things to distract yourself during the flight 

Being distracted can help you forget that you are even on a plane. Bring things with you on the plane that you know you will enjoy and can spend a lot of time using. 

For example, if there are movies or TV shows you have been wanting to watch, download them to your phone or other electronic device so that they are ready to go when you’re on the plane. This can kill a lot of time during the flight. Just make sure to pack yourself headphones, too!

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Books are another great thing to bring on flights, as well as crosswords and coloring books. 

If you are traveling with someone else, you could also bring a card game to play together. 

4. Spend the flight asleep 

Falling asleep on a plane can be really difficult, especially if you are feeling anxious, but there are different things you can bring to make it easier to fall asleep. 

First, one thing that makes sleeping on a plane easier is if you have a flight really early in the morning or late at night. At these times, you’ll both be more tired and the plane will be darker, making it easier to fall asleep. 

A mother and daughter asleep on a plane

Get some sleep on your flight. Just be careful not to accidently fall asleep on other passengers. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Also, bring a travel pillow and a blanket with you for extra comfort. 

If you have headphones handy, you can also play calming sounds on your phone to help you fall asleep. 

5. Be strategic with seat choice 

Book your flight early, before the seats start to fill, so you can choose a seat that may help you put your mind at ease. 

If you sit toward the back of the plane, that area is typically going to be louder, and there’s going to be a lot more movement with people passing you to use the bathroom. 

On the other hand, if you sit in the front sections, it will generally be a lot more peaceful and more quiet.

6. Learn about the aircraft

Taking time to do research about planes before getting on one can help you be more confident for your flight. 

Look into how planes function and the safety features that are in place. This basic understanding of aircraft could make a big difference for you during your travels and help you feel safer when you are in the air. 

Three Jet Blue airplanes

Familiarizing yourself with planes and how they work could help you feel better during the flight. (Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

When it comes to the stats, there is a very small chance of a plane crash happening. The chances of dying in a crash are actually about one in 11 million, according to many sources. 

Another scary factor often involved with flying is turbulence. When turbulence occurs, depending on its severity, it can sometimes make for a scary and bumpy ride. 

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Understanding what turbulence is can put your mind at ease. Turbulence happens when there is some sort of change in the air movement around the plane. Most of the time, a little turbulence is no big deal and very common during a flight. 

Finding the answers to questions you have about planes can help you feel a lot better about flying, once you know the statistics and have a general understanding of how things work. 

7. Put trust in your travel buddy

If you are traveling with someone else, lean on that person for extra support. 

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Before your trip, let the person know about your fears and if there are things that you know help you, share these things with your travel party, so they know what to do if you get anxious. 

Also, just having someone else there that you are comfortable with can provide a calming presence for you. 

Kimber Crandall contributed reporting. 

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