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Conquer Your Fear of Flying: Here’s How

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It’s kind of ironic. I blog about travel and have been on more flights than I could count, but I have a serious fear of flying.

Specifically, of turbulence. I’m fine during take off or landing. When we’re 35,000 ft. in the sky and the ride is devoid of bumps, I’m completely calm. But the second the flight moves even one foot in a strange direction, I am 100% convinced it’s the last day of my life. All trace of relative sanity vanishes. I start thinking about how fast I would die in various crash scenarios. I think about the things I wish I told various people before boarding. One time, I even wrote a small will on my iPhone’s Notepad.

Then, I get off the flight, forget completely about the five panic attacks I nearly had and start planning my next trip! And on the next flight, it’s this all over again.

I am telling you all of this not to make you think I am completely insane ( which, maybe ), but to let you know that if you have a fear of flying, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. In fact, 25% of people feel the same!

I am fortunate to be able to travel more than the average person, so over the past few years I’ve forced myself to try out a variety of techniques to combat the anxiety I experience. I have not completely erased my fear of flying, but I have figured out how to deal with and suppress my anxious symptoms. I can’t let a few borderline panic attacks get in the way of seeing the world, right?!

If you experience the same anxieties about flying, I urge you to give the below techniques a try and figure out what works best for you!

THINK RATIONALLY:

I am highly emotionally reactive person, so the “thinking rationally” technique doesn’t tend to work well for me. But if you are someone who finds comfort in hard statistics, rational thinking might be for you. It essentially involves thinking through the likelihood that anything detrimental will happen to you … which, by the way, is close to zero.

Here are some hard facts to hold on to:

  • You have 1 in 5 million chance of being killed in a plane crash. [ source ]
  • You are more likely to die via lightening strike ( 1 in 1.9 million ) or in a car accident ( 1 in 14,000 ). [ source ]
  • You could fly every day for an average of 123,000 years before dying in a plane crash. [ source ]
  • Trained, experienced pilots all say that turbulence is completely normal and nothing to be afraid of. [ source ]

TALK TO SOMEONE:

If one of your neighbors isn’t otherwise preoccupied with a book, movie or music, strike up a conversation. Ask them if they are from the place you’re headed to, why they were in the place you are coming from, etc. Casual, friendly conversation keeps your mind focused on something other than the anxiety you’re experiencing.

LISTEN TO MUSIC:

Whatever music normally calms you and completely drenches you in good vibes, listen to that. Concentrate entirely on the rhythm and the words. Focus your attention away from what you are nervous about.

OBSERVE OTHERS:

Whenever I find myself becoming anxious, I look around to see if anybody else looks nervous as well. Oftentimes, all other passengers are calmly talking to their neighbors or totally entranced in a movie. The flight attendants are going about everything completely normally. A good rule of thumb is that, if the flight attendants aren’t scared, you have nothing to worry about.

DRINK WINE:

Not going to lie to you, this has proven to be one of the most effective calming techniques for me personally. Ordering red wine at first in-flight service is my flying ritual. It seriously calms my nerves and helps me relax exponentially.

And I’m not alone [ source ]:

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-10-11-49-pm

A note on this, though – don’t drink more than 2 or 3 glasses, and try to drink a ton of water! Any more than that, and you’ll just end up dehydrated, tired and cranky.

TAKE DEEP BREATHS & COUNT:

Try inhaling for three seconds, holding for two and exhaling for three. While you’re doing this, concentrate completely on counting the seconds and on the feeling of your breath moving in and out of your body. This shifts your focus from your outside environment to your internal self, decreases muscle tension and increases a sense of calmness & peace.

I do this specifically during turbulence, but it would also help relax you if you’re afraid of flying in general.

POP PILLS:

This is a bit of a last resort, but if you know that you just can not hang on flights no matter what, going to your doctor for a prescription might be the best option for you.

Valium and Xanax are anti-anxiety medications that will not only relax your mind, but also allow you to catch some much-needed shut eye. If you’re on a long haul flight, Ambien is great. It will make you fall into a deep sleep for the duration of the flight, without any grogginess upon arrival.

Just make sure to take these medications once you are on the plane, not in the airport. Kind of awkward when your flight is cancelled and you’re asleep in the lounge for the next eight hours 🙂


What do you use to combat a fear of flying?

Here are some things you might need for a peaceful, anxiety-free flight:


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If you're scared of flying, you NEED to try these 7 techniques.

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  1. Maky says:

    Great tips. I also have fear whenever I fly.But next time I will try out this great tips.Thanks for sharing.

  2. Melanie says:

    Oh my gosh, I’m so with you on all of this! Wine is a must and every time I start freaking out my husband tells me to chill out and look at everyone else not in a tearful panic. I become so irrational on planes – I’ll have to keep some of your facts in mind next time!

  3. Crissy says:

    I personally don’t have a fear of flying but I can totally understand where the fear stems from. I always get kinda creeped out when I see films that have anything about airplane crashes! It totally psyches me out! But I think you offered some great tips and it definitely will help people who have fear of of flying! Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a great post Christina. Flying is such a tough one because it’s so unnatural, but so essential. Personally, we just read, listen to music and chill out and if turbulence hits, freak the hell out haha.

  5. Ole Svensson says:

    Hej Hej Christina,

    Yust another idea on how to view turbulence: Yust tell yourself it is nothing new, for we all have our ups and downs. I told this to Udy and it works!

  6. Skye Sherman says:

    This is a great bunch of tips! My mother-in-law has a fear of flying so I passed this along to her. 🙂 Thanks for writing this!

  7. We aren’t afraid of flying but there are some really good and detailed tips in your post!

  8. Laura says:

    Good tips. I’m not scared of flying, but driving, drowning, large crowds, heights… yes!! I think a good way to get over fear is to do it more and more – maybe try flying a plane or jumping out of one?

    • Christina says:

      Weirdly it’s been the opposite for me – the more I fly, the more I become nervous!! Skydiving didn’t help me too much either 🙁 I’m glad you liked the tips 🙂

  9. Andrew Scott says:

    Great post, Christina! I think you’ve created a very concise plan for dealing with anxiety around flying. Despite being a very regular traveler myself, I have the EXACT same fear that you do (TURBULENCE EEEK) and these techniques do help!

    Another thing that I’ve tried that really works for me is to change how I interpret the physical signals my body gives me. That is to say, instead of trying to suppress the flight-or-flight reaction I get when the flight gets bumpy, I instead embrace these feelings and look at it as a challenge to overcome. When I fly, I get the opportunity to face a fear, and if I can overcome it, I’ll be that much stronger mentally! This gives me a sense of control that I otherwise wouldn’t have flying in a metal tube 36,000 feet in the air.

    • Christina says:

      That is a really interesting way to think about it! I’ll have to try that ( while sipping my wine 😉 ) next time I fly. Thanks so much for reading, Andrew.

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Frequent flyer, NYC-based serial entrepreneur, online educator, mama to a Bernedoodle pup, and lover of long baths.

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