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10 Life-Changing Tips to Conquer Your Fear of Flying

Afraid of flying? Here are proven tips to help you get over your phobia of airplanes.

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Accept your fear of flying

Instead of fighting the feeling, replace your fear with acceptance, says Julia Breur, PhD, a licensed clinical psychotherapist in Boca Raton, Florida. According to Breur, accepting that you have a fear of flying—and the many physical and emotional changes that accompany it, such as sweating, trembling, or having worrisome thoughts—is an important step in getting over the fear of flying. Embracing your feelings rather than resisting them can better help better manage your flying-related anxiety.

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Watch your fear from a distance

Although it’s important to have an awareness of this fear, don’t let this phobia define you. Breur suggests “watching” your flying fear from a distance, which essentially involves doing your best to detach yourself from anxiety-ridden thoughts about flying. “You are not your fear,” she says of the importance of not letting these worrisome thoughts rule your life. It’ll also help to know the 14 things you should never do on an airplane.

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iStock/Izabela Habur

Act despite your fear of flying

Show your flying fear who’s boss. In other words, go about your daily routine thinking and behaving as though you’ve overcome this phobia. Eventually, you’ll come closer to beating this fear. These are the best gifts for the jet setters in your life.

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Repeat fear-banishing tips

Continue to repeat the steps of accepting your awareness, watching your fear from a distance, and acting as though you’ve conquered this phobia. Breur says that doing this over and over will help your flying anxieties to diminish. It’s a matter of turning these thoughts into a habit. Familiarize yourself with the thing you’re afraid of, too, with these little airplane facts you’ve always been curious about.

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Expect realistic improvement

Develop an expectation that you’ll be able to keep your flying fears in check. Expect that you will indeed improve and learn to cope, without allowing any room for doubt. Besides, “what you fear the most rarely occurs,” she says. Confident thoughts like this is an essential part in overcoming the fear of flying. These are flight mistakes you’re making that flight attendants wouldn’t.

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Focus on flight safety statistics

If flight safety is a concern that drives your flying anxiety, Breur notes that International Air Transport Association (IATA) data indicate that 4.3 billion passengers flew safely on 46.1 million flights in 2018. Overcoming the fear of flying means focusing on flight safety, instead of the things that you imagine might go wrong. These other reassuring facts about flying will help as well.

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Learn about aviation

Many times, overcoming your flying anxieties is a matter of becoming more educated about the topic. “I have seen relief of fear achieved when an individual or group learn some specifics about the airline industry,” Dr. Breur says. Turn to various resources including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), and the International Flight Services Association (IFSA). Immersing yourself in everything from aircraft construction to aerodynamics are helpful ways to overcome your fear of flying.

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Take flying lessons

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” So to combat your fear of flying, why not face your fear head on by taking flying lessons? Before you dismiss this somewhat unique approach, consider the story of North Carolina businessman Clay Presley. He was a passenger on the airliner that landed safely on the Hudson River in 2009, a situation that rendered him fearful of flying. He decided to take flying lessons to overcome his fear. Presley earned his pilot certificate and his confidence about flying has grown ever since. If you do the same, you might learn these 40 secrets airplane pilots wish you knew.

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iStock/Leonardo Patrizi

Visualize a calm, safe experience

Picturing a safe flying experience can help relieve your flying fears. A USA Today article about how to overcome flying fears explains that it’s helpful to envision yourself going through the entire flight process, from arriving at the airport all the way to touching down safely at your destination. Such visualization makes the experience more calming.

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Speak to a professional

Breur suggests speaking with a licensed psychotherapist to learn to cope with, and ultimately overcome, your fear of flying. She says that such professionals will arm you with techniques and invaluable insight to help you feel more calm about this anxiety. Consider finding a psychotherapist in your area who specializes in phobias, anxiety, and fear. Talking one-on-one with this kind of expert in a private setting may be just the help you need to overcome your fear of flying. If you fear flying, or even if you don’t, these tips are sure to help make your flight as comfortable as possible.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest