Air travel is making an incredible comeback. This summer, airports will be welcoming more passengers than ever since the pandemic.
Even if you want to go on a vacation to an island or to attend a cousin's wedding, the idea of flying might make you feel anxious.
You're not alone if you are afraid of flying. Around 40% of Americans fear the idea of flying. Between 2.5% and 6.5% Americans have a fear of flying.
These tips will help you avoid reaching cruising altitude.
Flying is considered the most safest long-distance travel option aEUR", and it is very rare to die in a plane crash. Why is it that our brains hold on to the most extraordinary cases when something goes wrong?
It all comes down to confirmation bias. This means that we look for evidence that supports existing beliefs. Dr. Luana Martques, associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, says it.
You can believe that planes are dangerous if you read a news article about a plane crash. Marques says that it is dangerous. She says that it is possible to dispel the fear of flying by looking at how many planes land and take off safely each day.
Marques says that a fear or phobia of flying is not rational. To overcome fear, it takes practice and time. If you find it difficult to deal with your fear, don't be discouraged.
Marques explains that exposure therapy is "the idea that you are exposed to something you fear over and over again, which calms down your limbic so it doesn’t fire up as quickly." This could lead to less anxiety over the long-term.
Marques says, "You're basically climbing up a ladder fear." Make sure that your fight-or flight response is less active before you go to the next level.
It could look like this:
Virtual reality exposure therapy is a great way to overcome fear without flying.
Marques says, "When we are really, really anxious we can't think straight."
It is important to connect with your rational, thinking brain. Our emotional brain calms down when we focus on thinking.
You can also try a sudoku or crossword puzzle, or read a great romance novel. We have recommendations! You can also get through a lot of paperwork. There are many distractions that can distract you from your flight.
You might instinctively take deep, slow breaths to calm yourself down during a flight that is rough. Marques says that you shouldn't try and stop the experience. She explains that it is almost impossible to stop the fight-or flight response once it has been activated.
Instead, label your emotions. "Oh my goodness. For example, "Oh my gosh. Marques says to remember that your body will respond normally to perceived threats.
This is different than putting your anxiety on autopilot and telling yourself "Oh, my god, the plane is going down." She explains, "Oh, my God! Something bad is going to occur."
Once you have identified your fear, you can go back to the information you have about aviation safety and remind yourself that it is still safe.
Marques says that fast-acting drugs like Valium or Xanax can be helpful tools. "I've had patients who had to take it just to do the exposure therapy." However, long-term treatment may not be possible if you rely on medication.
"These medications quickly reduce anxiety. Marques says that these medications are the only way to fly and travel. They tend to make people more stuck in the long-term.
Talk to your psychiatrist if you need medication to fly. She suggests that you think of medication as something that can help reduce your baseline anxiety.
Do not self-medicate, or mix prescription pills and alcohol.
Marques says that the key to all this is to allow yourself to feel "comfortably uncomfortable".
You will never be afraid if you are completely at ease. It feels like you are always in danger of having a panic attack if you're completely uncomfortable.
Marques explained that finding a middle ground is when you step out of your comfort zone and move toward something important. Instead of focusing on anxiety, you use that anxiety to propel yourself toward something important.
Consider what is important to you. Perhaps you are passionate about traveling, or you would like to be promoted at work. Or maybe you live far away from your siblings and want to visit them more often. It's worth overcoming your fears.
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Mansee Khurana produced the audio portion of this episode. We would love to hear from your! You can email us at or leave a voice message to LifeKit@npr.org.