How I Deal With Aerophobia and How You Can Too

“I’m scared of flying, what can I do?” 

“What can help me with a fear of flying?”

I love when you all ask me travel-related questions on Instagram and I recently noticed that these are two that keep popping up from time to time. As someone who also suffers from aerophobia, it’s easy for me to relate to just how debilitating it can be. Today, I’m going to be sharing my insight, tips and tricks on how I deal with aerophobia and how you can too.

You Have Aerophobia Too?

Yes – I most definitely have aerophobia! I went years completely refusing to fly, tried to plan entire trips around the world that didn’t involve flying and had a habit of Googling things like “Can a plane crash because of turbulence?”

The thought of flying is still enough to make me feel a little bit anxious. But, I’ve used some of the tips and tricks that I’m going to be sharing today to keep myself in the air and I hope that they will do the same for you.

1. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Before we go any further, I want to stress how important it is not to be too hard on yourself. Aerophobia is incredibly common, affecting millions of people around the world.

There are little tips and tricks that might help you, but you’ll ultimately find what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. Some of my tips might be completely irrelevant to what you’re feeling, we’re all so different. Hopefully, some of them will help you to find an approach that fits.

2. Understand what turbulence is and why it occurs.

Turbulence is one of the most talked about topics among people with aerophobia when it comes to flying. This makes sense too. We have no control over what’s happening. We’re just sitting in a giant aeroplane hurtling through the air and it starts bobbing around like it’s on a bumpy road.

Luckily, aeroplanes are specifically designed for all of those bumps. The wings moving act like shock absorbers, dealing with inconsistent swirls of air.

Some turbulence can be predicted, but not with complete accuracy. You can experience a bumpy ride at any altitude. Some turbulent patches cause small bumps, others cause you to spill your drink. The worst are capable of throwing things around the cabin, which is why it’s important to belt up when the captain tells you to.

Turbulence cannot and will not cause a plane to crash. There have been huge advancements in technology that prevent this and we haven’t seen a single crash related to turbulence in decades. Pilots are trained to handle turbulence and have weather briefings prior to flying, choosing routes that best avoid turbulence.

While it can be really uncomfortable to deal with turbulence, your best bet is to listen to your pilot and wear your belt. That will help to keep you safe and reduce your chances of being injured. Not sitting at the back of the plane can help too, as the back is often the bumpiest part.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk to the flight attendants. 

I didn’t start flying until I was almost an adult.

On the first few flights, I tried to hide my fear of flying from everyone. It wasn’t until one kind flight attendant saw how tightly I was gripping my book and asked me how I was doing that I learned how amazing flight attendants can be when you’re feeling a little frightened.

If a flight attendant knows that you’re afraid, they will check on you during the flight. They want you to have a comfortable experience and are used to passengers who have aerophobia. They’re also trained to handle an array of problems that can arise from being afraid, such as hyperventilating and fainting.

Most of the time, they’re able to answer any questions about safety you may have. They travel on planes constantly and have to stay completely up-to-date. Your safety is their priority. If there’s a question that you can’t get out of your mind, they really won’t mind you asking them.

4. Think about whether or not where you’re sitting will help you.

Where you’re sitting on an aeroplane might not sound too important, but it can help if something specific triggers your aerophobia. If it’s turbulence, try to avoid the back of the plane and sit above the wings. The wings are one of the most balanced spots and often feel the least turbulence.

If you know that you don’t want to look out of the window and that the height will make you feel worse, it might be worth choosing an aisle seat. If you want to be able to see what’s happening at all times, sitting by the window might offer you more control.

I find that I’m terrified of looking out of the window while planes are taking off, but I usually settle down halfway into my journey and enjoy the view. Sometimes it takes a little bit more time for us to adjust.

5. Find a distraction that works for you.

For me, part of getting through my fear of flying has been to find a distraction that really works. What works for me might not work for you though. 

I find that movies help me when I’m flying, especially if they’re new movies that I haven’t seen before or old favourites. It took years for me to work that out though. Keeping earphones in also helps me to ignore some of the aeroplane-related noises around me.

But, when the turbulence hits this stops working for me. That’s when I’m usually my most afraid and can all of a sudden focus on nothing but the turbulence. In those moments, I just have to focus on my breathing. I haven’t yet found a solution for my most fearful moments, but knowing that turbulence doesn’t usually last long tends to help.

While I don’t find that books, music or podcasts help me very much, they might help you. Everyone is different and identifying what works for you could really help you to get through your flight and make time pass just a little bit quicker.

6. Ask for professional help if you need it.

For some people with aerophobia, professional help might be needed. If you feel like your fear of flying is stopping you from doing something that you really want to do, it’s worth talking to a specialist about what you can do to help you through that.

Many professionals use tools like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure. CBT focuses on how our thoughts and feelings relate to our actions, giving us a way to process our thoughts and feelings while better controlling our actions.

For some, anti-anxiety medication may also help. I have no experience with this and would recommend speaking to your doctor if it’s something you’re interested in considering.

7. Knowing how planes function can occasionally help.

Full Disclaimer: I do not find that this helps me, personally. But, I have many friends who have used knowledge to get through their fears of flying. 

The amazing thing about planes is the fact that they are very much designed to deal with emergencies. If you’re scared of flying, there are classes you can attend with pilots who talk about the features of a plane and safety. They even explain all of the mechanical noises that you might hear on a flight.

I have not attended one, but my friends have only spoken highly of their experiences. If you have, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

For some, controlled exposure like this just works. Being with a trained specialist gives you greater control as they can explain exactly what’s going on to you. In learning about some of the safety features, you might feel more relaxed on board.

You Can Do This

Sometimes our fears make us feel like we’re entirely incapable of doing things that we genuinely want to do. They surround us. But, I promise that you can do this. It might be almost impossible or feel entirely impossible, but you really can.

If you have any questions related to aerophobia or flying, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll see if I can help.