For those who have a fear of flying or heights in general, vacations can present some stressful situations. You may have to take a long flight to your destination or have a tour planned that involves facing your fear head-on, such as taking a helicopter ride over the Las Vegas Strip or a tour of the Grand Canyon. If you happen to be vacationing with a large group, you may be the only one with a fear of flying, and you certainly don’t want to be the one to hold the group back.
In preparation for your trip, here are some tips on how to overcome your fear of flying so you can simply relax and enjoy your vacation:
1. Recognize Your Triggers
There’s always something that sets your fear off even before you step foot on that plane. Is it a claustrophobic feeling of having to be on the airplane for so long? Do you remember a scene from a movie that was particularly disturbing that links to your fear of flying? By zoning in on the particular thoughts and memories that actually trigger your fear, you can better manage your anxiety simply by identifying and addressing them.
2. Anticipate Feelings of Panic
When those triggering thoughts start to creep up, you already know what follows. You may start to panic in anticipation of having to endure a long flight or the inevitability that you have to get on the plane in the first place. However, it’s so important to remember that these feelings of panic and anxiety are often much worse than how you will really feel when you are in the actual situation. Try not to get ahead of yourself and take it one step at a time.
3. Arm Yourself With Facts
Fear feeds off a lack of knowledge. When you don’t understand how something works or the statistics behind specific situations, it’s easier to be afraid of it. Try diving into the safety of commercial airlines, learn how an airplane works, become familiar with the sounds you may hear while on a flight, and really dig into the facts on flying. Having real answers to those pesky questions in your head will help you manage your fears.
4. Practice Positive Affirmations
The mind is a truly powerful thing. By practicing positive affirmations, it’s proven that anxiety and negative thoughts will lessen considerably. So before you head out for your exotic vacation or take that exciting tour, try repeating some positive affirmations to yourself like, “I am safe.” “I am in the hands of professionals.” “I am strong.” “I am conquering my fears.” These repeated phrases will replace your feelings of panic and anxiety.
5. Be Prepared to Distract Yourself
Rather than working yourself into a panic, it’s a good idea to give yourself a to-do list while you’re on the flight. This list will be a welcome distraction and can help pass the time more quickly. For example, bring a book or your laptop and give yourself some assignments. It may be to read the last two chapters of your book, finish working on that spreadsheet for work, or organize the itinerary for your trip. No matter what it is, be sure to have plenty to do during your flight.
6. Let Your Fellow Travelers Know
There’s no award for suffering in silence. If you happen to be traveling with friends or family, it’s always best to let them know that you have a fear of flying and are expecting to feel anxious during the trip. By educating your vacation companions, they may be able to help you to cope with your fears. Let them know about your triggers and what affirmations seem to ease your anxiety best. They can also help distract you during the flight and coach you through any hard patches you experience.
7. Focus on Breathing Exercises
When panic kicks in, it often results in rapid breathing and the feeling of not getting enough air. This can make matters worse by not delivering enough oxygen to the brain and triggering even more fearful thoughts. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to focus on your breathing to slow it down and make sure you get long, deep breaths. There are several different methods of doing this, but it generally consists of inhaling for a set count and exhaling for a set count with your eyes closed. The controlled breathing shifts the focus from your mind to your body and helps to stimulate a feeling of calmness.
8. Practice Makes Perfect
Although it may not be what you want to hear, nothing beats fear better than being able to conquer it directly. Remember, every flight you take, no matter how short it happens to be, is one step closer to completely overcoming your fear of flying. Every successful trip will help to reduce your anxiety and build up your confidence for your next vacation. The longer you put it off, the more you allow your fear to win and take control of your life. It definitely won’t happen overnight, but as the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.
If you have booked your vacation or tour through a professional sightseeing tour company, you should always talk to your tour guide or travel agent about your anxiety and fear of flying. This way, they can help you plan the most enjoyable trip while avoiding situations that can trigger your anxiety. Armed with these tips to help overcome your fear of flying, you now have some tools before your next vacation or upcoming tour. You got this!