I became really comfortable with the fact I had never been on an airplane. Almost to a fault that it became such a big scary thing in my head. At one point I believed I would never get the courage to fly!
I got my first opportunity to prove myself wrong (besides that one time I almost went to NYC with the journalism school in college & then COVID hit…) this past Christmas of 2021 when my fiance Casey’s family gifted us a family trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. I knew driving was not in the cards, so I either had to get over my fear or sit out probably the best vacation I had ever been on.
The trip was planned for June 2022, which at the time seemed super far away. In my head I knew I had time to mentally prepare for my first flight.
Well time flew and all the sudden it was June 1st, I had two weeks before my trip, and I had done nothing to prepare for my flight. I was about to just “hope for the best” and force myself on the plane.
But I knew I had way to many fears to rely solely on hope. I decided to see my counselor I had found a year ago and do a few sessions with her before my trip. She specializes in anxiety which is why I knew she would be perfect to talk through my plane fears.
In case you can relate, some of my fears included:
- the unknown
- feeling trapped
- navigating the airport
- having a panic attack
I came to her with all my fears and concerns (even the very very irrational ones) and she gave me so many tools to use before and to bring with me for my flight. I’m sharing the tools I gained from counseling as well as tips I learned along the way with you all today in hopes that it can help someone else who may be experiencing flight anxieties.
Know you are not alone & it IS possible to conquer your fear!
Tools That Helped Me With My Fear of Flying
The first thing we did (and what I most recommend) was called mental rehearsal. I think this was especially beneficial to me because I had never flown, but will still be incredibly helpful to someone who has flown and is still scared!
Completing a mental rehearsal is basically a practice run of an event that causes you anxiety. Forbes magazine describes it beautifully in saying, “By repeatedly facing threatening situations under calm, controlled emotional conditions, we learn to respond in desired ways, free of threat.”
For example, I visualized every single moment from stepping into the airport to getting onto the plane, to taking off, to unexpected turbulence, to cruising in the air, and then finally to landing. Since I had never been to an airport or on a plane, I actually looked up on YouTube the exact flight I was on and I found someone who posted a flight review on his experience! I got to see him boarding the plane and what the exact plane actually looked like on the inside which helped.
I probably completed 12-15 mental rehearsals of all different scenarios in the two weeks leading up to my trip.
Do Your Research
When my counselor asked me how much I knew about planes and flying, I so honestly answered… “not much at all.” She told me to do some research on the airline I was taking and the plane I would be on. There’s so much information on the website and app about the planes and it really helped to get a more detailed look into what the experience would be like.
I looked at the specific plane I was taking and saw where my seat was which helped to visualize it too. Like I mentioned in the mental rehearsal tip, I looked up the exact plane on YouTube & saw that there were actually walk through reviews from real people that helped to get a visual on what everything would look like. This tip helps to lessen the fear of the unknown & emphasize just how safe and normal flying is.
You’re probably thinking, “what on earth is tapping and how is that going to help me get over my fear of flying??” That’s exactly what I thought when my counselor introduced it to me, but I was willing to give anything a try.
You guys, this may sound “woo woo” to some, but it works. To lay down the basics in case you’re skeptical like I was, tapping is a stress relief technique also known as EFT (emotional freedom technique). If you’re interested in learning more about it, this article has a lot of great information on what it is and the science/research behind it. There’s also an awesome episode on The Skinny Confidential podcast about tapping and how to use it to take control of your life.
I used tapping during my mental rehearsals before the trip, I used it in the airport leading up to the trip, and I even used it on the plane before take off. I did have to warn my fiance Casey what I was doing so he wouldn’t give me funny looks haha. But paired with deep breathing, this instantly calmed me down. I repeated the sequence a few times and it is crazy the shift that I felt.
This TikTok video about turbulence from a pilot not only has over 6 million likes, but it really helped to understand turbulence more and how it shouldn’t be feared. She compares turbulence to jelly, which sounds silly, but just watch and you’ll get why! I honestly never understood what turbulence was before watching this video and only had the dramatized version in my head from movies. This video is definitely one to check out if you fear turbulence.
Watch The Flight Attendants
One of my best friends flew solo from Maryland to Atlanta to visit me earlier this year, and I was so impressed. I bombarded her with many questions wondering how she felt so comfortable to fly ALONE. I know, people do this all the time. But it was so foreign to me at the time!
One tip she said that helps her is to watch the flight attendants. In a moment of anxiety, watching the flight attendants and seeing how calm they are helps to know that nothing is wrong. I also reminded myself that flying is their JOB which helped to calm my anxiety with just how normal flying is.
Calming Music & A Happy Movie
During take off I blasted the song “Peace Be Still” by The Belonging Co (Ft. Lauren Daigle) in my airpods and death gripped Casey’s hand. Really focusing on the lyrics of this song helped me to relax and put my trust in something bigger than my anxiety. Once we were in the air cruising, I watched Mamma Mia. I recommend watching a light-hearted movie to help distract & entertain you while you’re flying!
Seek Professional Help
There is nothing wrong with you if you can’t overcome your fear of flying on your own. From personal experience, seeking out a counselor to talk through my anxieties is the only way I successfully got myself on a plane!
When looking for a counselor, I recommend finding one that specializes in anxiety and stress disorders. They will help teach you coping mechanisms as well as work with you to get to the root of your fears.
And at the end of the day, the only way to truly conquer your fear of flying is to get yourself on an airplane and fly. Going to throw a cheesy quote at you, but life happens outside of your comfort zone. The adventures, memories, and experiences that you will have by getting on an airplane will make it all worth it.
PIN IT FOR LATER!