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A fear of flying is one of the most common phobias in the modern world, and like most other phobias, the fear is disproportionate to the risk. Yes, flying has potential for scariness, but accidents actually happening are not at all likely. Therefore, it is technically rational to fear flying for the severity of consequences if the worst happens; however, given the very low likelihood of your worst flying fears realized, the fear becomes irrational. That’s easy enough to say, of course, but how do you convince your mind and body that there’s no reason to fear? Understanding how to overcome your flying fears is best done by understanding those fears in the first place.

So, what is it that you really fear? Is your fear about the plane crashing, or is it more about feeling trapped with your fear? For many flyers, the fear and nervousness comes from feeling stuck without escape. If your anxiety is mostly about feeling overwhelmed with fear and stress and no where to escape to, this is very normal, and manageable. You can regain control by focusing on the things you can do for yourself to ease your flying anxiety. Practice positive thinking and visualization before your flight to train yourself to think through the fear. Tell yourself that it’s unlikely anything bad will happen to you while on the plane, and why. Imagine yourself on the plane, completely calm. If your anxiety starts to rise, tell yourself what you can do to “escape” if you need to; i.e., you can leave your seat and walk the aisles, or you can distract yourself.

If your fear is about relinquishing control, then the best way to combat this anxiety is to focus on controlling your reaction to the flight. Book your flight with an airline you trust and don’t second guess the competency of the staff or the mechanics. You have no control over what happens to or on the airplane, but you can control yourself through the flight. Practice effective calming strategies like focused breathing, repetitive movements, listening to music, etc. If you know that you can manage your own reaction to the stress well, then that eliminates one concern for you already.

Contrary to your instinct, it is worse for your fear to avoid flying all together. Anxieties only worsen through avoidant behaviors. The fear is reinforced without practical exposure to contradict fear with reality. This doesn’t mean you immediately book yourself a 12 hour flight. Know your limits and don’t push yourself too far. It can have the opposite effect if you do too much too fast. If it’s possible to practice, in a manner of speaking, on a few shorter flights to get positive exposure to flying before attempting longer flights, then do this. It goes against all natural instincts, but this is the best way through your fear.

Fear of flying is normal and common, and there are ways through it. Keep in mind that overcoming your flying fears open a world of wonderful possibilities to you.