I am currently writing this as I sit on an airplane traveling to Ohio for a friend’s wedding. I wouldn’t describe myself as having flight anxiety but I can experience travel anxiety in regards to being on time, leaving the dogs, did I forget something?, what if my bags get lost?, and so forth which honestly is its own blog post. I do however work with many individuals who do struggle with flight anxiety and fear of flying. In fact, some studies estimate as many as 25% of Americans identify with a fear of flying.
What makes flying so scary? Honestly a lot of things. Of course, there is the “What if the plane crashes?” but there are other smaller less obvious fears or thoughts that make flying uncomfortable. For instant: I can’t get off and there is nowhere to go, it’s a small tube in the air, its crowded, I am not in control at all, and what happens if I have a panic attack and I have no where to go? These are just to name a few.
I recently was talking with a friend about how unnatural flying in a metal tube feels and that never in the history of humans have we taken flight until the last century. I must admit they have a point. Talk about the unknown here and why that would make someone feel anxious.
Flying is very much a part of our 21st century society and cultural. Many of us live a distance from family, travel for work, or have honest to gosh wanderlust and want to travel and see the world. So, what do you do if you have a fear of flying? Many will avoid traveling, cancel flights last minute, drink alcohol, feel increased irritability and stress, or have panic attacks on flights. Many clients that I work with come to me these experiences and with this exact question, I need to get on airplane how do I do it?
I generally take what therapists call a bottom up approach to anxiety which means starting with the physical body sensations and feelings then work our way up to the unhelpful thinking. Anxiety is felt extremely strongly in our bodies and if you have ever experienced a panic attack that goes without saying. It doesn’t always do a lot of help to come up with a bunch of positive thoughts if you’re literally jumping out of your skin and “freaking” out. With the bottom up approach, we start with the body, which is usually a great place to start to find some relief from the physical sensations and allow your brain the ability to even put logical and rational thought into place.
I usually have clients create a 911 Flight Tool Kit
It’s a list of tools and resources they have and have practiced before the flight. I always recommend practicing these tools during more neutral experiences so that when you need them the most they are not brand new ideas or sensations.
This is one of my favorite grounding techniques that I use and I also teach clients to use.
Fly without Fear Itunes Album
download this guided meditation album which has meditations for the moment you get to the airport till the plane lands
As always reaching out to a medical professional or a therapist is always recommended. I hope you find this to be helpful.
Hello! Welcome to my Blog on self care . I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Yoga Teacher.