Thursday, November 17, 2011

10 proven tools to conquer your fear of flying

There's no getting around it; holidays mean travel. And a fear of flying makes holiday travel all the more stressful. Guest blogger Erika McQuade has tried a variety of fear-of-flying programs and products and offers some tips here to custom-design your own self-help program.

For 13 years, I could not get on a plane. I tried to no avail, but my fear of flying prevailed. And I lost a lot in the process. Between losing money and missing family events and business meetings and opportunities, I knew I had to nip this in the bud. Four years ago, after trying every single fear-of-flying remedy (no joke), I took matters into my own hands, and now I can say that I still hate flying, but can do it if needed. And that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to like it, but you just need to learn how to deal with it. Why? You will miss out on L-I-F-E. There may be a great trip to go on, or a family visit, or a family emergency or an important business meeting. The feeling that you get when you make it to the other side, knowing that you’ll be able to enjoy where you are, is like NO OTHER.

Here are my tips to get to the other side:  

1. Recognize and Research. Figure out why you don’t want to fly. Do you have a fear of heights? Do you get motion sickness? Do you not like having control over your transportation? Hate turbulence? I can answer “yes” to all of these questions. Once you recognize your fears, you need to go to a credible source to research the facts (e.g. Google: US statistics fear of flying). What you’ve heard and allowed your mind to formulate is most likely incorrect. It really is safer for you to fly then to pull out of your driveway in the morning. When you hear about flying accidents, those are one in millions.

Side note: I HATE turbulence. Absolutely hate it. (I mean, who really likes it?) When I was trying all of these techniques listed here, I hit some bad turbulence that almost sent me over the edge. I must have said a thousand times in flight, "I’ll never fly again." I refused to believe that the pilots knew what they were doing, the plane was not going to fall out of the sky and it was going to be over soon. You’ll see what I did to get through this bad time as you continue.  

2. Throw out the trauma. If you’re like me, and have been traumatized by flying before, you need to take the trauma and "throw it out the window." Easier said than done, right? Once you have credible facts (see Tip #1), you will see that these notions may still linger in your head, but you will be able to push them to the side, at least for the trip.

Side note: The first time I flew, I was sitting next to an elderly man who said to me, “Well, when your time’s up, your time’s up,” as we were flying over the coast looking at the water below. From that point on, I went into fight-or-flight mode, where everything on my body was tingly, I had the chills, I was severely nauseous and I couldn’t open up my hands. What a wonderful experience!

3. Mind over matter. Saying to yourself (repeatedly), “I have to go, I have to go,” won’t necessarily help. The more you focus on it, the more control you’re letting “it” have over you. Why let something like this have that much control over YOU? You’re more powerful than that. So take those detrimental thoughts and take control of them! Again, you don’t have to like the flight, you just have to get through it.

4. Know exactly what you’re in for. Know the sounds the plane is going to make before it takes off. Check your flight before leaving to see if it is delayed. Know that when taking off you’re going to feel the speed a bit, but once you lift off, you won’t feel it. 

5. Don’t rush. Leave enough time to check in, but not too much because you don’t want too much time to overthink. 

6. Fear-of-flying products or services may not work. I tried everything in the past. But nothing worked. I found creating a customized package for me worked.

7. Repeat this phrase in flight: “I’m okay.” This phrase is what got me through any flight. If we hit turbulence and I started to freak out, I muttered these words over and over in my head. Think about it. YOU REALLY ARE OK. Not that you have to repeat the phrase throughout the entire flight (if it helps, then by all means do so), but do it for the times when you need it most.

8. Create your own space and bring comfort tools. Invest in an iPod, and go to iTunes to download your favorite songs and movies. Make sure you are listening to your favorite song or are watching your favorite movies, especially during ascending and decending so that you stay occupied. For relaxing music, I recommend Beegie Adair. Reading didn’t help me, but it may help you, so try bringing a few favorite reads. 

9. Don’t do a test run. In your research, you may see recommendations to do a test run before the big day. Think about this. A test run means test, not the real thing – basically you can opt out, making you fear the big day when it arrives because then you HAVE to do it. 

10. Look out the window. I HATE HEIGHTS. I’m the type who cannot go near the edge railing on the second floor of a mall. Yet when I was able to look out the window to see what was happening with the plane, I was totally fine. Once you’re up in the air, you can put yourself at ease by appreciating that you made it into the sky. And when you’re descending, you can start to calm yourself by saying that the flight is almost over – and that you almost made it to the other side!

Bonus Tip: If you have a bad experience going to your destination, don’t let it ruin your trip. When I was first learning how to conquer my fear, I was heading to Las Vegas to my sister-in-law’s wedding. I knew I had to go, which gave me extra motivation, and flying with my husband definitely helped. We had to get a connecting flight, which I was not happy about. Well, from White Plains, NY to Atlanta, GA, I was on a tiny plane, on which I got very sick because I took too much anti-anxiety medication. We got to Atlanta (still very sick ), and had to run to catch our next flight. Then I was stuck for over four hours on a plane that had turbulence, and I was throwing up all over the place. We finally got to Vegas, and I was like, “There is no way in hell I’m getting back on a plane.” But how else was I going to get back? Drive? It was hard, but I knew that I couldn’t let my fear ruin things. I would have lost out on the awesomeness of what was happening. So I just let go, and didn’t think about it until the morning we flew back. I focused on how exciting it would be to finally get home. And the flights back were a BREEZE!

I would be glad to help you if you have a fear-of-flying issue, so please feel free to contact me if you need to: Erikamcquade[at]gmail[dot]com.  

Erika McQuade is an online marketing communications (PR and social media) coach who helps start-ups, mompreneurs and small businesses launch and expand online organically, maximize the return on investment and turn buzz in to profit.

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