Whether it's spiders, snakes or heights, many of us have phobias – and for a lot of people, it's flying that leaves them quivering mess. So how can you avoid having a full-on panic in the air?
We attended the British Airways Flying With Confidence course, where psychologist Patricia Furness-Smith offered this simple routine to help yourself relax if you get agitated on board a flight.
Step 1: Intercept the worry
Before your flight, pop an elastic band around your wrist, making sure it's not too tight. As soon as you start to feel nervous or have agitated thoughts at the airport or on board the plane, snap the band against your skin – this is a way of focusing yourself to start the relaxation techniques, instead of letting your fears run away with themselves.
Step 2: Use your breathing
Unlike many of the bodily functions that spring into action when we're nervous – such as shaking, sweating or our pupils dilating – breathing is an action that we have some control over. And if you manage to regulate your breathing, then those other 'fight or flight' physical responses will come back into line as well. Start counting out each breath – four counts as you breathe in, and four counts as you breathe ut. Slowing your breathing down will help stop panic mode setting in.
Step 3: Tense and release
Your muscles tend to tense up when you're stressed – another hangover from the ancient 'fight or flight' reaction. Patricia recommends forcing your muscles to relax by purposefully tensing and releasing them. Try shrugging up your shoulders then releasing them four times, and do the same with pointing your toes, clenching your fists and so on.
Step 4: Visualisation
Anyone who's done yoga will know that a visualisation technique can be highly effective in making you relax. However, many of us make the mistake of only picturing, say, a beautiful beach. In fact, your visualisation will be far more effective if you use all your senses – so imagine not just the vision of the tropical beach, but also the sound of the waves lapping at the shore, the feel of sand against your skin, the smell of sun tan lotion and the taste of your favourite ice cream. By doing so, you should be able to relax fully.