Nervous Flyer? We Tested 5 Ways To Help
First-hand advice from a fearful flyer.
If you’re a nervous flyer, you know all the stats, including the ones spouted at you by well-meaning rationalists.
Being in a plane accident is so unlikely that there’s more chance of your taxi getting into an accident on the way to the airport (please note that this fact is not at all helpful – now I just fear transport in general). It’s more probable that you’ll become a lottery winner (which is a bit exciting if you don’t think about it too hard). And you’re more likely to be struck by lightning (which is not comforting if you happen to fly through a storm…although fatal accidents involving lightning strikes are very rare).
Unlike fears based on things that are easy to avoid (like otters, which is a bona fide phobia), being afraid of flying kind of sucks. It can hold you back from exploring the world (or even just another state) and cause serious pangs of envy when you check out AWOL. If you do manage to convince yourself that it’s the destination, not the plane journey, that really matters and book your ticket, the experience can be really stressful. During the flight your nerves will be rattled, you can develop cramps from maintaining a vice-like grip on the seat arm-rests and your intense perspiration will mean you’re already one outfit down for your holiday.
It’s estimated that one in four people have a fear of flying. I’m one of them, despite travelling pretty regularly between states and overseas. With Rescue Remedy no longer cutting it, I needed to do something to keep me from having heart palpitations every time my plane barrels down the runway. Here are some things to try if you’re in the same, er, boat.
#1 Fear Of Flying School Podcast
Hosted by Aussie ex-nervous flyer Tim Benjamin, this 10-episode podcast takes an educational approach to tackling flying phobia. There’s an interview with a commercial airline captain, an aircraft construction expert, aviation weather researchers, a meditation guru and also a therapist specialising in flying-related fears.
I binge-listened to all of the episodes prior to my most recent flight and being equipped with more info on how the whole shebang actually works helped me feel calmer. I was interested to learn about the different levels of turbulence and the best place to sit if you want to feel it the least (by the wings).
Oh, and it turns out the aircraft’s wings are quite bendy, and there’s no such things as “air pockets” to get sucked into – phew.
#2 YouTube Hypnosis
YouTube is also here to help nervous flyers. I searched “fear of flying hypnosis”, which returned thousands of results. The best videos had soothing voiceovers and pics of sunsets, clouds and mandalas, and others had extreme close-ups of shifty-looking “hypnotists” and awkward role-playing scenarios.
In the end, I was too absorbed in critiquing the lack of production value to be put under.
#3 Fearless Flyers Program
Not only is Australia’s Fearless Flyers program the second-oldest of its kind in the world (it was established in the late ‘70s), it was founded by a group of female pilots including Aussie aviation prioneer Nancy Bird Walton. Run in association with Qantas and Airservices Australia, Fearless Flyers courses are held in most capital cities throughout the year (which is a relief, as a cruel irony it’d be to have to fly to it).
A flight is part of the four-session course, but it’s right at the end of it. By then, you’ll have been taught the ins and outs of aviation, as well as the psychology of fear, and toured a stationary aircraft, flight deck and air traffic control tower.
Instead of trying to get you to think differently about flying, how about not thinking about it at all? Whether through an app (phones on airplane mode can be left on through take-off and landing now), a magazine, Sudoku, chomping through a can of Pringles or fixating on back-to-back episodes on the inflight entertainment, distractions can seriously help flight anxiety.
Just focus all of your attention on the task at hand and opt for something light-hearted or familiar to help ease anxiety. You’ll be surprised at how well it can work.
#5 Flight App VALK
I paid $4 for this app to be my “inflight therapist”, as per its promise. The app’s content is divided into different sections based on the stages of your journey, including before departure, departure, take-off and flight, turbulence and landing sections, stepping you through each stage.
I liked the tone of the advice: sensible, kind but bossy, as it strongly advised against consuming a can of Coke prior to departure. There’s a lot of reading and not much interactivity, although a Dutch man does talk you through some basic relaxation exercises. There’s also a panic button which will get you the attention of the Dutch guy again as he talks some sense in to you. Dank Je!
Checking out these different resources did help keep me more grounded (not literally thankfully) and calm during a recent stormy flight into Sydney. Yes, I’ll still be requesting a seat by the wing, keeping my seatbelt buckled at all times and memorising the safety card. But it won’t stop me from travelling and hopefully it’ll mean no more white knuckles.