Five tips to overcome your fear of flying

Allison Yee

Holiday season is here, and for a lot of us, that means jetting off on a much-needed vacation or making travel plans to be close to your nearest and dearest.

But what does that mean for those of us who are afraid of flying?

Reports say aviophobio – the fear of flying – affects one in five people, with The Australian revealing on average 1000 people die from plane crashes every year, compared with 1.3 million who die in car accidents.

Source: Giphy

Clinical Psychologist and director of Sydney Phobia Clinic Corrie Ackland tells Be that fear of flying is one of the most common phobias, so here are her five top tips to overcome any fears you might have. 

Be prepared

Too scared to type ‘turbulence’ into your Google search because you’re afraid of what you might find? Identifying your concerns before flying and getting as much info as you can will help, says Corrie.

“We don’t all know about turbulence and why it isn’t dangerous, so that’s really important to have in your back pocket so you can correct the thoughts that come up,” Corrie explains.

Recognise your anxiety and breathe deep

“Employ controlled breathing strategies to stay calm,” says Corrie.

“One way is to breathe in for three seconds, hold for two, and breathe out for three. What you’re trying to do is keep control of your physical symptoms.

Fear of flying affects more Australian's than you think. Photo: Getty

Don’t self-medicate

Corrie recommends people “stay present” when they’re on the plane and tackle fears head on, rather than trying to forget they exist.

“A lot of people are inclined to try to distract themselves and pretend they’re somewhere else, go to their happy place,” says Corrie.

“What you’re really doing when you employ that strategy is endorsing that a plane is an unsafe or scary place to be. The sooner we can used to being on a plane, and being present and feeling safe, the better.”

Minimise stress

If you’re a nervous flier, give yourself time on the day so you’re not overwhelmed by other elements of travelling.

“Airports can be pretty stressful environments so I always recommend my clients track through as quickly as possible so they can make sure they have time between the different stresses,” says Corrie.

“Try to calm down rather than rush to the gate at the last minute. Get through security, sit down and have a chill, then get on the plane.”

Give yourself plenty of time to make your flight. Photo: Getty

Don’t be afraid to seek help

According to Corrie, fear of flying is something you should seek help for – and the sooner the better.

“The longer that we have these concerns and don’t address them or [increase] exposure we need to improve them, the more likely they won’t change, but also worsen,” says Corrie.

“They could generalise to other areas, like other parts of public transport, or heights.”

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