How to Overcome the Fear of Flying

Perhaps the most gut wrenching and unnatural activity that human beings regularly engage in is flying. We as a race have been flying for some 100 years and there is no stopping in sight. While technology, planes, distances and amenities have gotten better over the years; something still remains the same. The fear of flying is apparent in everyone from novices to veteran flyers. However, it can be kept in check and overcome. Here’s how I did it.

Accept and acknowledge the gruesome facts:

– You are flying inside a metal cylinder that weighs hundreds of tons
– You are flying at 500-600 miles per hour
– You are 6-7 miles above the ground
– Crashing means certain death
– You will likely die before you even hit the ground from heart failure
– You have absolutely no control over what happens once you are strapped in
– You don’t know the captain, the first officer, the crew or the other passengers
– There is always a chance of the plane being hijacked

Now that sounds pretty horrible right? Sure it does but what can you do. These are the facts you must accept and move on after you’ve accepted that you cannot change what you can’t control.

That said, you must also accept and acknowledge these facts as well:

– You are safer flying than you are on any other mode of transportation
– Turbulence does not make planes crash
– The captain, first officer and crew do not want to die
– The other passengers want to arrive safely just as much as you do
– As annoying as airport security is, it does deter terrorists from tampering with flights
– It would be really hard to get a gun or bomb on a plane
– There are air marshals on planes

Once you’ve accepted what you cannot change, you are ready for the next steps and precautions:

Spacing out
This might sound weird but this is exactly what I do. I don’t listen to iPods, play computer games or watch movies on any flight longer than 4 hours. I simply remove myself from my own mind and space out literally. This relaxes your mind and body and can honestly be one of the freest times your mind and body can have. This can involve sleeping, which I have become good at although admittedly it takes a lot of practice.

Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine
It boggles my mind when people drink heavily on planes or have several coffees, teas or sodas. They are all culprits in keeping you up and not allowing you to relax. They all increase your heart rate and make you nervous. Have you ever sipped on one of these drinks during heavy turbulence? You’ll freak out. Don’t do it. Stick to water, club soda or juice.

Accept things on board the plane you cannot change
This includes the people around you and your seating assignment. Unless it is a half full plane, you are stuck in your seat and you are stuck with the people around you no matter how bad they are. Accept this. I don’t care if it’s a screaming child or a big fat ass right next to you oozing onto your seat and squishing you into the window. Deal with it. It will make your flight a lot more pleasant and help prevent freak-outs.

Don’t take meds
So many people take different medications before flying especially long distances. I have never and will never do this because I think it causes the exact opposite reaction from what you’re trying to achieve. It would make me stay up longer and get more nervous. For those that like it fine, but I would never suggest it. It is always harder than you think to sleep on long flights and pills don’t help; they make you anxious and then groggy.

Have a positive attitude
This is probably the most important thing in overcoming the fear of flying. If you think or say something will suck, it will. Just the same as anything in life, flying is much easier if you think it’ll be OK. That’s exactly what I do. It is a necessary evil and you must be positive.

Finally, remember these elementary things when you fly and they should help ease your mind:

– If you’re flying you are very lucky
– There are billions of people on this Earth that will never see the inside of an airplane
– If you didn’t fly, how would you get where you’re going and how long would it take?
– Walk, drive, swim, train, bus?
– When you’re flying you’re almost always going somewhere good; vacation, work or home
– We live in an amazing age where anywhere is accessible within 24 hours because of air travel
– The world is at your disposal
– Relax, rest up, sleep…just keep your mouth closed!

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  1. Fantastic story Mr. Lee

  2. Great article Lee, very well written, funny and true to life. I love the spacing out part although I must say I do bring and watch movies on planes. I cannot sleep even after all these years.

    • Sleeping just takes practice I think and the space out thing came after years of being very uncomfortable for me…now it’s second nature

  3. Mali John says

    “just keep your mouth closed.”……This made me guffaw.

    I really don’t fear flying. I’m on cloud 9 when I’m in an airplane. Turbulence is the only thing that scares me.

    Since you said turbulence will not make a plane crash, then there’s nothing to worry about now.

    I will share this with my friends.

  4. Jonathan says

    Have you ever flown Alitalia? I did last week and I think their captains and crew wanted to die. It was the worst airline experience of my life and I live in the UK and deal with RyanAir and EasyJet all the time!

  5. Yummmmmm fat guy oozing onto my seat

  6. I never thought about it but I guess a plane does weigh several hundred tonnes

  7. I can’t sleep worth anything on planes so the only thing for me to do is drink.

    Perhaps it’s a product of being Irish!

  8. Just try not to think about it

  9. These are wonderful tips and you make it seem so simple. I hate flying more than anything…I will try your steps.

  10. Great post…I am sure a lot of people will love this

  11. I am one of the minority who needs to drug themselves before getting on a plane. I don’t know why I do it because I can never sleep. I think I am just too nervous. Maybe I should try the spacing out technique!

  12. hi there! firts of all, i’m not an english speaker, for that, give so credits and try to understand my words!, ok, thnx for this article, i`m one of the million of people with this stupid fear, i went to ths psycologist and it worked… for a little, now i`m again with thea fear, but, this lines make me more at ease, thnx again, and one thing a didn`t know it`s that turbulence does not make planes crash, that`s a fabulous tip!!!, ok, i will try to do all the things that you mention it, i give it a tray reaaaaaally hard!!!

  13. Knowing all the details about the planes from cabin crew job doesn’t really make the fear of flying go away, especially after almost having a plane crash once, surviving a lightning striking my plane and surviving turbulences when I fell down a couple of times and got bruises all over. But still the best thing is not to think of it as you couldn’t do anything about it once something happens …

    • That must’ve been a real experience and the lightning thing I’ve had too…that sucks.

      Funny, even cabin crew hate flying!

  14. I love how you just lay it put there that you’ll die in a crash, accept and move on!

  15. “Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine”…I totally agree with this one, especially caffeine. If you hit a lot of turbulence and you’re already wired-up on caffeine, you’re more likely to get anxiety which will really mess with your head and intensify things. Drinking is also a really bad idea, especially on long-haul flights where you booze up prior to getting on the plane, then the first few hours of flying, then you fall asleep and wake up dehydrated, dizzy, and potentially hungover (and being dehydrated is one of the primary causes of anxiety because your brain and body is already starved for nutrients). So you can bet the last few hours of the flight will be uncomfortable and unpleasant and will probably increase your worries if you were already a nervous flyer.

    Good article.

    • Thanks Ryan, I obviously agree…People who get on planes wasted are the worst. Worst co-passenger experience of my life was drunk redneck guy from Lagos to Paris a few years ago. My friend Erin and I nearly killed the guy…luckily got moved to first class because he was that bad.

  16. They also say that normally if a plane is going to crash it will be within the first 20 minutes after take-off, or the last 20 minutes before landing. Really, for me, I don’t have too much problems with flying, especially overland doesn’t bother me at all), it’s the long-haul ocean trips that get your mind sometimes playing the ‘what if?” game, especially trips to/from NZ or Australia traveling 10hrs++ over nothing but pure ocean where you know if there’s a mechanical problem, your chances or landing anywhere is slim to none.

    If I ever get nervous I just think of all the 50K+ commercial flights that are buzzing around the world daily at any given time night and day and how little you ever hear about crashes. You’re more likely to win the Powerball then ever get maimed or killed in a commercial jet wreck.

    • Good point on the odds and the amount of flights, I also do that. There’s also hope after that USAir flight landed in the Hudson River for long haul flight over the ocean although I just hope I’m not on it!

  17. One last thing, notes that there were 48,269 commercial flights yesterday worldwide over a 24-hr period that took off and landed (including private jets and FEDEX, UPS and cargo jets) without incident. As of right now there are 6,843 commercial flights taking place in the world right now…When you break it down like that, and realize the fact not one of them will hit anything more then probably some turbulence, it makes you realize any fear you have is pretty irrational and flying is extremely safe.

  18. Great article, I found your website through American Express. I am very impressed and look forward to reading more about your travels and adventures. Thanks.

  19. you make me laugh Lee! I try my hardest to just fall asleep right away but only so I can get to my destination faster 😉

    Great post!!

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