While a fear of flying is surprisingly common – pilots estimate 35-40% of people on board planes are nervous – few people want to let it hold them back from seeing the world.
Instead, we grit our teeth, board a plane, and spend the whole flight clinging on to the arm rests, imagining it's our grip alone that keeps the entire jet in the air!
If this sounds all too familiar, here are some top tips on how to soothe your fears, and perhaps actually enjoy being in the air…
1) Before your flight, avoid caffeine and stimulants (such as energy drinks), as these will get your heart racing before you even get on the plane. Eating anything particularly sugary can have the same effect.
2) Wear loose clothing – your whole body actually swells up slightly in the air, and if you're wearing constrictive clothing it can make you feel more agitated.3) Tell the flight crew when you board that you are nervous, as they're trained to help out anxious passengers. If there is turbulence, for example, they can come and reassure you first, or make a call to the pilot to check how long it is likely to last.
4) If you start to get nervous, focus on your breathing to calm you down. Unlike sweating or shaking, breathing is one of the few bodily functions we can control, and in doing so you can bring the rest of your physiology back in line. Slowly count to four as your breathe in, then four as you breathe out, and repeat until you feel back in control.
5) If it's the sounds of flying that make you nervous, consider listening to music during particularly noisy times such as take off. Although these noises are all completely normal, you may find it helpful to be listening to your favourite band instead of the plane's wheels coming up! Just be sure your device won't interfere with the plane's electronic systems.6) Download a podcast designed to alleviate fear of flying, which you can listen to while you're in the air. We recommend Flying With Confidence by Patricia Furness-Smith, which is available to download from iTunes.
7) Have a mantra that you repeat to yourself if you start to feel edgy. For example, 'Flying is the safest thing I could possibly be doing.' (Figures show that you are actually 100 times safer flying than being in a car, 10 times safer than being at home, and 4 times safer than if you were on a train).
8) Wear a rubber band around your wrist, which you can ping if you start to feel negative emotions or panic develop. This will focus you on using anti-anxiety techniques such as deep breathing and clenching and releasing muscles, rather than just letting your worry run wild.9) If you still find flying a terrifying experience, consider enrolling on a day course, such as British Airways' Flying With Confidence. The day involves talks from pilots explaining triggers like turbulence and bad weather, advice on how to stay calm from a psychologist, and a short flight where you will listen to narration from the cockpit detailing exactly what the noises and feelings you're experiencing are.