Last week my daughter and I had a couple of conversations about the fear of flying (the actual fear, not the book) in preparation for our trip to Florida. We both have experienced times when our anxiety about flying is worse than others, so I set out to see what I could learn about aviophobia. It was no surprise to find about a bazillion resources online, so I sifted and winnowed to pull out a few themes that resonated with me.
Loss of control. This is a very common root cause of aviophobia. For those who enjoy taking charge and organizing their world, turning the reins over to someone else is a challenge. When flying, you are forced to be a passive, rather than active, participant. This is not an easy adaptation when it goes against your nature.
Trust. Think about it—airline employees choose to fly all day, every day. Would they continuously show up for work if they thought it was dangerous? As a passenger, you have to trust that the crew knows best and they will do all they can to keep everyone on board safe.
Accept the expected. One thing I really dislike about flying, and I know I am not alone in this, is turbulence. Every time a plane rocks and rolls, I get a jolt of panic. I finally realized that turbulence is nothing more than the equivalent of potholes on a roadway (and us Wisconsinites sure know about our potholes). Now, I anticipate that turbulence will occur, and when it does, say something to myself like Whoomp (There It Is).
Feelings are not facts. I saw this phrase cited multiple times, and found it to be quite comforting. Just because you might sense danger, that doesn’t mean there is actual danger. Your natural fight-or-flight instinct can be mitigated by a logical look at the situation. Is the danger real or am I letting my imagination go off the rails?
Future thinking. Mindfulness practitioners learn how to stay focused in the present by focusing on breathing. When flying, this technique helps a lot, but there is also value in projecting into the future. Thinking about what I will be enjoying when I arrive safely at my destination takes my mind off fearful thoughts that may arise during the journey.
Regarding this trip to Florida, the feeling of my toes in the Atlantic was even better than I imagined. Having the opportunity to enjoy days of sunshine and leisure is definitely worth the price of a little bit of flight anxiety.