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Why it’s normal to have a fear of flying (and how to feel better when you’re on a plane)

Many of us feel a little bit nervous before we get on a plane. We think about things like whether we’ll find the right seat, whether the take-off will be bumpy or if they’ll be any turbulence. But for most people, once you’re up in the air, watching a movie or reading a good book, you feel fine – especially if the plane food is good!

But according to stats, not everyone is so lucky. Roughly 20 to 30 percent of people are very scared about getting on a plane, to the point where they’ll feel very panicked, ill or even not able to get on their flight altogether. This intense fear of flying is called aviophobia or flying phobia. And if you experience it, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Plenty of other people have a fear of flying too. And to make you feel better, a lot of celebrities have been outspoken about just how much they hate being in the sky. According to tabloids, Britney Spears has never been a fan of flying, which isn’t ideal given she’s spent so much of her life touring the globe.

And, according to a friend, Kate Winslet and her ex-husband Sam Mendes never used to fly in a plane together because they’d be scared something might happen and their kids would be orphans.

They’re not the only ones, reports suggest Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Megan Fox, Holly Willoughby and Aretha Franklin aren’t fans of flying either. And we’ll bet there are a whole load of others who don’t admit to it.

Why are some people afraid of flying?

It’s all good and well to say a lot of people also have a fear of flying. But why are some people terrified while others happily jump onto the plane?

Well, there are all kinds of reasons. And it’s likely to be different for different people. People who tend to get anxious or scared a lot in general often find flying difficult, because it elevates their fears.

Others feel scared because they may have had a bad experience of flying in the past or they know someone who has. Our brains like to make patterns to keep us safe. Like, don’t go down that path because it scared you last time. Or don’t touch that hot plate again because it nearly burned your hand. It’s the same with flying. If you felt scared before, your brain doesn’t want you to experience that again.

Or for others it just doesn’t make much sense at all! Sometimes the most relaxed people who had had no negative flying experiences get scared. The answer isn’t really in understanding why, it’s in understanding how to make it better.

Here’s how you can feel better about being up in the air

Breathe. This sounds simple, but when our bodies and minds are panicked, our breathing tends to get faster. This then tells our body something is really wrong, which can often make us feel worse. Fight that instinct by taking some really deep breaths before, during and after your next flight.

Distract yourself. If thinking about flying scares you, don’t think about it. That’s easier said than done and often the only way to get it out of your mind is to do something else. Watch a movie on the plane, take a book, try a puzzle book, or do all three! You want your brain to be occupied so you can’t think about flying.

Visualise yourself in the future. A technique that lots of phobia experts suggest is visualising yourself stepping off the plane after the flight. They recommend making this visualisation as detailed and real as possible. How does it feel? How does it smell? What are you looking at? The most important part is to imagine a big smile on your face.

Eat well and exercise beforehand. We all know that eating veggies and getting exercise makes us feel a little bit better – even if we’ve been feeling really low. Do everything you can in the run up to your flight to feel your absolute best. So even if you do get nervous, you can cope with it better.

Chat to a counsellor or therapist. If your fear of flying is really upsetting you, or stopping you from travelling altogether, then ask your parents or teacher to help you find a therapist or someone who specialises in fears. They’ll talk to you about what’s scaring you and might help you to get over the fear completely or teach you some professional coping strategies for getting through it.

Remember. A fear of flying is one of the most common fears on the planet, so don’t worry if being in the sky makes you feel worried. There’s plenty you can do to make yourself feel better, from simple breathing through to a detailed distraction plan. Once you get to your destination you’ll feel so proud you managed to do it – visualise that whenever you feel scared and you could beat your fear yourself. And what a great feeling that would be.

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Image: Amber Griffin

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