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Fear of flying - how to beat it

Updated: May 21

You want to take a flight but are too scared to do it. Or you manage to fly and its an awful experience from start to finish. Imagine how good it would feel to let go of the fear and fly calmly. To be able to book a trip without feeling sick to the stomach for weeks beforehand - and instead feel excited about your trip away. How good would it be to enjoy the flight without constant panic throughout it.

Fear of flying can range from mild anxiety all the way to full phobia or aerophobia. This can have many different aspects. It's not as simple as just being scared of getting on the plane. Sometimes it's about claustrophobia - being closed in, those seats don't leave much room do they.

It can be about feeling loss of control - you are sat in your seat with someone else responsible for getting you to your destination safely.

Maybe for some people it's more of a social fear - being surrounded by people in a small enclosed space for hours, maybe having to sit next to strangers.

Sometimes it's not even the thought of a crash that bothers you - it may just be overwhelming anxiety about being on a plane and you don't always know why. Sometimes it can be anxiety over feeling anxious on the plane. A fear of the fear.

Fear of flying

You may be wondering - fear of flying - how to beat it?

Having worked with many people over the past 10 years for flying fear, I've heard lots of different aspects to the fear they have.

Also, many years ago I too had a crippling fear of flying myself, so I can relate to the fear and know how to get over it. Back then I wasn't a hypnotherapist, I was just terrified of flying. But like many people, my fear wasn't so much about the flying itself but many surrounding issues - being away from home, going somewhere new, general anxiety, and the potential for a crash probably came last on the list.

Over the years as I grew older and flew more, the fear became manageable - but it was still there. It was only when I became a hypnotherapist years later that I actually got control of that fear.

I have taken flights in the past that had a very rough take off, landing and moderate turbulence throughout. Did I like it? No. It was certainly uncomfortable, unpleasant and I did feel mildly anxious - but I could quickly recognize this as a normal response to such a flight. So the fear was quickly under control and I could see it for what it was - a normal part of flying. But it was a good reminder of how some of my clients may develop a fear after a bad flight.

Fear of flying

Safest form of transport.

You've heard about it being the safest form of travel - so why doesn't this help the nerves? Well, this is because the brain has made an association between flying and being anxious. The reptilian brain - the part that controls fear responses, is extremely fast, working far earlier than our conscious awareness. By the time you have the thought - calm down it's the safest form of transport - the earlier part of the brain has kicked into action around half a second earlier and already activated the fear response. The information about flying comes in, is run by the early part of the brain first and travels across thousands of neural pathways in a split second. If what is stored there is previous memories or feelings that this is something scary - then that is what it'll respond as. This part of the brain is on high alert for danger and once it finds it - real or imagined - it tries to protect you from it.

One way of helping to calm the fears is to arm yourself with knowledge. The following facts about flying may help with this.

About Turbulence It’s like driving over a speed bump. Imagine driving across a bumpy road, you'll naturally feel the car moving over the road surface. It's the same in the air. Every modern plane is built to sustain incredibly strong turbulence. In fact, planes are tested against turbulence many times stronger than they will ever meet in reality. So there is very little chance that natural turbulence can damage a plane. About Weather Conditions Every modern plane can handle rain, high wind and even lighting strikes but for more safety, pilots will always fly around or above pockets of bad weather conditions just so the flight is as comfortable as possible. What if Somebody Opens the Door of the Plane? This is one of the most common fears when flying: what if somebody loses it and open the door of the plane? This is simply impossible in flight. Not only because of mechanical security systems but also because of basic physics. During the flight, there is over one tonne of pressure around the door that keeps it sealed for good. It’s like parking a car over the door; good luck opening it. Mechanical Issues People are sometimes scared of mechanical failure in an aircraft, especially when hearing an unusual noise. But remember, on average, for each hour of flight a modern plane is subject to many hours of maintenance before it can fly. This is in addition to the many repeated checks by lots of different people to ensure safety.

Statistics There is only one out of 11 million chances that you will ever experience an accident when flying and the survival rate is 98%. This means that you would need to fly once per day for 22,000 years to die in a plane crash. So next time you catch a flight remind yourself that you have 11 million reasons to stay calm and enjoy. A Harvard University study found that the odds that your airplane will crash are one in 1.2 million, and the odds of dying from a crash are one in 11 million.

So what else can you do, because knowing these facts and stats alone may not be enough.

Hypnotherapy or BWRT - Brainworking Recursive Therapy, can help by working directly with the part of the mind where fears are stored - reframing them and putting in new responses. So instead of your automatic response being fear - it will now be calm.

You may not love flying or even like it - but you may be able to fly calmer without the full on panic, as Megan below shows.

Fearless flyer

Fear of flying

Before Claire, flights for me were an incredibly traumatic experience. The second the engines kicked in, so did my overwhelming fear and panic. I would cry for the whole flight, squeezing my husband’s hand until it was numb, imagining the worst, shaking, knee tapping, shouting things out - it really was the worst way to start a holiday. It was embarrassing for me and those around me but I truly felt as though that was it for me, just something I had to put up with...until I heard about Claire from a friend. ​

I visited Claire with much scepticism, truly believing it would not work for me. Claire was amazing! During the session, she allowed me to speak frankly and honestly about my fears and concerns without making me feel silly or ashamed. She listened to all my issues and quickly ascertained that I had a fear of losing control - something which very much mirrored my daily life!
After just one session, Claire was convinced the treatment had worked for me...I remained unsure but proceeded to my family holiday 6 weeks later full of hope! I knew that my trigger was the engines starting and was fully prepared for the tears to come...but they never did. As the engines started and the plane began to move, I felt a huge sense of calm. There was no hysteria, no panic, no shouting. I looked at my husband who was equally as gobsmacked. We simply could not believe it! I looked out the window, I took my seat belt off, I went to the toilet. I enjoyed a drink because I wanted to and not because I needed to.

I spent the whole flight out talking to a man from Liverpool who was shaking and crying exactly the same as I used to. Having told him all about BWRT, he was also off back home to see if he could access the same treatment.
Looking forward to flying again!
I cannot thank Claire enough for her help in managing my anxiety - I even emailed her in the taxi on the way to my hotel in Majorca as I could not wait to thank her! Whereas before my flight limit was probably around 2 and a half hours, we have now booked Tenerife for next year and are looking forward to longer flights to a wider range of destinations with our family.
Anyone who is remotely scared of flying - go and see Claire! You won’t regret it! I only wish I had done it sooner! - Zoe


fear of flying

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