Yemisi is an itinerary consultant and speaker with a pretty tight schedule. So, she has to fly all the time. The big problem is: Yemisi always gets a panic attack each time she does. How is she ever going to deal with the fear of flying?
Formally, it felt much safer, though with much stress, when she had to travel by road to speak at events within the country. But, her itinerary has become more demanding, as she often needs to be in five or more different states and countries within the space of a week or two.
“What if something goes wrong with the engine and the plane crashes?” she would ask each time she’s about to board a plane. “What if the two pilots hidden in the cockpit are inexperienced at handling emergencies?” This she would also ask, grabbing tightly to just about anything her hands could find each time her flight makes to take off.
Each time there’s some turbulence in the air, over 30,000 feet above the ground, her anxiety gets worse and much worse when the plane makes to execute a landing.
It is called ‘Aviophobia’ or simply put, ‘The fear of flying’. Like other phobias, aviophobia isn’t only peculiar to Yemisi. Many others silently suffer a great deal from this and wish they never had to fly again. But, can this be overcome? The answer is yes and these are some of the steps you could take:
Figure out what exactly scares you
Aviophobia could be triggered by one or various other fears that you may need to consciously identify. You’re probably scared of heights or looking down from tall buildings. Or, may be you are afraid of not being in control of what’s going to happen next – ‘the fear of the unknown’, especially considering the fact that you barely know the pilots and what they are capable of.
Another thing is, you probably feel claustrophobic in any tight space, and you generally don’t like being in elevators. So, being locked up in an airplane 30,000 feet above the ground for hours definitely triggers a panic attack each time you think about it.
Figuring this out will help you narrow or streamline your fears so it doesn’t feel so enormous to deal with.
Know the facts
Having identified what triggers your fear of flying, the next thing would be to know the facts about flying. For instance:
Planes are the safest mode of transportation and, according to statistics put together by David Rospeik, a Risk Communication Instructor at Harvard University, the chance of dying in a plane crash is one in 11million annually. Meanwhile, chances for a car crash stands at one in 50,000. This clearly shows that you’re at much risk while driving, even if you feel safe about it.
Planes can also run on one engine in the event that the other engines fail. Even though all the engines supposedly fail, which is very unlikely to happen, an airplane can still execute a safe landing without both engines running.
Lim Khoy, a commercial pilot and author of ‘Life In The Skies’ said: “All air crafts can glide to a safe landing, but the degree of distance flown varies. Gliders can stay in the air for a long time. Single engine aircraft encountering an engine failure can glide a fair distance to execute a safe landing, provided it has the height.”
This still re-enforces the fact that airplanes are still the safest mode of transportation, in addition to the countless checks and supervisions they undergo.
Get to know the Pilots and Hostesses
Paul Slovic and Baruch Fischhoff are both researchers in psychology; they found out that people are less afraid when they are in control and driving gives them that control, unlike flying which seems as if their lives have been kept in the hands of two complete strangers hidden in the cockpit.
You don’t have to feel so out of control every time you fly; you could kindly ask a hostess if you can visit the cockpit and acquaint your self with the Pilots before take-off. The pilots for safety reasons might decline your request, but if they know it’s because it helps you deal with the anxiety of flying you could be allowed in. That way, you can feel more in control of the flight.
Showing up late for your flight could put you under a lot of pressure and thus increase your panic level. Always try to arrive earlier, affording yourself the time to catch your breath, relax and prepare mentally for the flight.
Avoid reading too much about plain crashes
“People are also more sensitive about risks that are catastrophic, which kill people all at once in one place, than they are about risks that are chronic, where the victims are spread out over space and/or time. Plane crashes, therefore, get more media attention than, say, heart disease, which kills 2,200 people in the United States each day” says David Ropeik in his article titled ‘How Risky Is Flying?’
If you really want to overcome the fear of flying, then you need to avoid reading much about plane crashes. Such news get stored up somewhere in your mind, painting scary pictures of a possible plane crash each time you want to fly.
Look for distractions
Distractions are necessary, especially if your fears are centered on take-off and landing. You could chew a gum, play a video game, watch an episode of your favorite movie series on your mobile device or read an interesting magazine for that duration of time.
Take the Risk
A large part of being scared is about not knowing what will happen next, so a good number of people have never taken the risk of flying because they aren’t sure of what their first experience would be like. They are scared that their first time might be the last. You’ll need to face that demon some day, if you ever want to visit some places in the world. So, Why not face it now?
Finally, your first time might seem like a horror movie, but, usually, it gets easier when you fly some more.