Are you scared of flying?

Here are some facts and tips that can help. Those uncontrollable nerves during take-off. The frantic search for the nearest emergency exit and an overwhelming urge to get off the plane. Could that be you? You're not alone. In fact, a recent study by the National Institute of Mental Health revealed that around 6.5% of the world's population suffer from fear of flying. This comes to 20 million who, just like you, let their fear of flying stand in the way of visiting all the beauty in this world. A crying shame? Absolutely, but by no means hopeless!

What is fear of flying?

Fear of flying is, as its name suggests, a feeling of anxiety when you're on an aeroplane. Travelling by plane or helicopter is a huge obstacle for people with flying phobia, and even impossible in extreme cases. The fear manifests itself mostly during take-off, but also in the air, in the following ways:

  • The muscles stiffen

  • Heavy breathing

  • Heart palpitations

  • Chest pain

  • Nauseous feeling

  • Panic attacks

  • Dizziness

  • Impaired perception

  • Reduced memory

All these physical and psychological symptoms can turn a journey by air into a flight from hell. But what are people who suffer from this anxiety disorder so afraid of? Obviously, their biggest fear is that the plane will crash. But bad weather and heavy turbulence will also scare the wits out of people who are already anxious. Looking at the facts, that fear isn't justified in virtually every case.

In the worst-case scenario - which is that an aeroplane crashes - the chances are about 1 in 11 million that this will happen to you. In comparison, the chance of you being killed in a car accident is 1 in 6,000. That means that you're 1,833 times more likely to die while sitting in a car than you are while travelling in a plane. Even with this knowledge, we still get into our cars every day without a care in the world, while the same people refuse to set foot inside an aircraft.

A plane crash is world news whenever it happens. This is basically because accidents involving aircraft are extremely rare. However small this chance is in reality - the media attention that these disasters receive brings the possibility of this happening to you a little closer to home.

Turbulence only keeps this fear alive. Because when you're in a plane that's shaking in every direction - surely that can't be a good sign. Although we can understand the thinking, turbulence doesn't compromise passenger safety. Turbulence is just a disruption of the smooth airflow going over the wings of an aeroplane. It's the same principle as waves in the sea, which ships have to navigate though in rougher weather. This doesn't mean that the will sink, of course. So although turbulence may seem scary, it is perfectly normal and there is no need to feel afraid.

3 Tips to overcome your fear of flying

People with an intense flying phobia will find it very difficult to overcome that fear. But that doesn't mean it's impossible. The following useful tips are a good start:

  • Stay in control of your breathing:

     Keep your breathing under control. People who are afraid tend to breathe faster and ‘shallow’. A good tip is to consciously breathe in through the nose, through the abdomen and out through the mouth. Try to keep this rhythm steady at a calm pace. After a while, you'll feel that your heart rate drops and your muscles start to relax. These are the first signs that the intense feeling of fear is slowly fading;

  • Avoid food containing caffeine or sugar:

     That means no coffee, chocolate or energy drinks for you before boarding. Caffeine and sugar can really stir up the nerves. It's much better to eat or drink something that calms you down, like chamomile tea.

  • Remind yourself of the facts:

     Seeing as anxiety can be emotionally overwhelming, it's important to do everything you can to focus on the logic. Of course there's always a very small chance of disaster striking, but you're still almost 7 times more likely to become a Hollywood movie star and even 10 times more likely to be struck by lightning.

The world has so much beauty to offer, and the only way to discover it all is by shedding that fear of flying. So never let your anxieties hold you back and find a solution that suits you. That way you'll finally be able to visit all those beautiful places in the world.