10 ways to overcome fear of flying

Scared of getting on a plane? Here's a list of techniques you can use to cure your fear of flying.
By Lee W
(5 minutes read)

Did you know there’s more chance of drowning in a bubble bath (1 in 840,000) than dying on a plane?

Useless fact that doesn’t help solve the issue at all, right?

Fortunately, Aviophobia (aka the fear of flying) is a mind over matter thing, and it can be conquered.

Here’s the tips and tricks I used to help cure my chronic fear of flying.

Pinpoint the phobia

Figuring out what triggers your fear in the first place is the most important step toward conquering flight anxiety. 

Are you scared of turbulence or shaky takeoffs? Perhaps being in an enclosed space (claustrophobia) or the spread of germs (germaphobia) freaks you out?

There’s plenty of reasons people can be scared of flying.

Agoraphobia (fear of being around people), acrophobia (fear of heights) and even emetophobia (the fear of vomiting) are some other examples.

Decipher this and you’re closer to conquering your fear of flying than you think.

Size (and position) matters

Hate a rough ride? The bigger the plane, the smoother the flight. But the real trick is to find an aisle seat closest to the wing.

There’s less turbulence in the centre, and if you manage to not look outside the window, chances are you’ll get less freaked out too!

Jerk off before takeoff

Yeah, sounds filthy but this isn’t just an excuse to bash one out.  When you blow your load, the brain releases a stress and anxiety reducing hormone, Oxytocin.

It really helps (I invented this hack).

Chew Gum

Talking of anxiety. Chewing gum reduces anxiety and can decrease stress almost immediately.

I think when we eat our body sends safety signals to the brain or something like that. So pack some Wriggleys.

Know your sh*t

If you’re the type of person who panics and asks “is that normal?” or “is it meant to sound like that?” then having an understanding about how planes work and why they make certain noises will remove any concerns when something ‘unusual’ occurs.

So familiarise yourself with airplane noises. Here’s a great article by Financial Times which explains all the plane sounds – and an even better one from The Telegraph.

What airplane turbulence is and why it’s no big deal

Remember, anxiety thrives on uncertainty. An hours worth of learning about how planes work and why they do certain things and make certain noises will put your worries to rest when it happens during the flight.

Will make you smarter too 🙂

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps people control their fears, by questioning their negative thoughts and emotions.

Virgin AtlanticBritish Airways and EasyJet offer Fear of Flying courses which use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

There also are a number of CBT courses available online which could be worth checking out.

Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real. But fear is a choice.

Will Smith – After Earth (2013)

Here’s a GOV study showing the positive impact CBT has had on aviophobia.

Tapping Meditation (EFT)

An alternative to CBT is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

When tapping on meridian lines on our body, we can release negative energy. Sounds a bit coocoo, admittedly but both me and the Dutchess of Corwall are fans.

3-minute tapping video

Breathing Techniques

It’s THE most important thing we do as humans and totally underused when in times of need.

There’s a dozen mindfulness apps (Headspace my personal favourite, ) which have specific tutorials for meditating when flying.

Here’s a couple of quick techniques you can use if you get a bit panicky on the plane.

Breathing Technique #1: 4-7-8 Breathwork
Breathe in through your nose for four seconds.
Hold your breath for seven.
Exhale through your mouth for eight.

Repeat until calm (should take a couple of minutes)…

Another one that works for some people is:

Breathing Technique #2: Left Nostril Breathing
Block the right nostril with your finger or thumb and take a deep breath in through your left nostril. Exhale slowly with the right. Repeat.

Here’s an 8 -minute meditation you can try just before boarding the plane.

8-minute Fear of Flying Guided Meditation

Avoid the following

Here’s a short list of things you really should avoid before flying….

Avoid #1: Caffeine / stimulants
Avoid #2: Flights with multiple stops
Avoid #3: Too much booze
Avoid #4: Reading / watching anything to do with plane crashes so Final Destination, Air Crash Investigation, Snakes on a Plane = no, no no!

Anti-Anxiety medications

Anti-anxiety meds / nerve aids like Kalms and Valium (Diazepam) can be extremely effective short-term cures / fixes for flight phobia, but there’s solid evidence and a handful of reasons why you probably shouldn’t use them (unless you plan to use them every time you fly).

Check out psychologytoday.com’s “anti-anxiety medication and flying article” for more info on nerve aids..