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How I Cope with a Fear of Flying

So this is probably a real oxymoron for a travel blogger, but I have a fear of flying. Not extreme in that I need meds, but enough that I’ve considered the meds! I don’t have a real reason for my fear of flying. I guess it’s based under the idea that it’s not logical for a metal tube full of moving people & things to fly 30,000 feet in the air across oceans. Now I’m freaking myself out just typing that!

So, since I’m writing this before getting on a 16 hour flight to Africa, I wanted to share how I cope with my fear of flying. Perhaps it’ll help you too!

How to Cope with a Fear of Flying - #travel

base photo flickr

Logic: Air travel is the safest mode of transportation and becoming safer. If I wanted to have a fear, it should be of driving or running along a street. A NY Times article quoted an MIT professor who studied air travel and he determined that, “flying has become so reliable that a traveler could fly every day for an average of 123,000 years before being in a fatal crash.”  Well, okay.

More Logic: My father-in-law spent 600 hours in the air last year. That’s a lot of time spent in an airplane. And things have been all good for him on all those flights. And he’s been traveling like that for many years before last year.

Stress Management: While in the air, I find it helpful to have some stress coping techniques. Imagining calming events or places can help. Also, doing a body relax where you think of relaxing certain parts of your body and work your way up/down/out. For example, deep breath, relax your fingertips, now hands, now arms…. You get the idea.

Stay Busy: I always try to pack some books and magazines that can help distract me from focusing on the flight. If you’re a reader like me, you know how getting hooked into a well-written story can make the world fade away. This trip I’ll be working on some fun blogging things, too.

Prayer: This is actually a huge one for me personally. I pray the days/night before the trip, I pray on my way to the airport, I pray on the plane before takeoff, and I pray during the flight (especially if we hit bumps), and I pray when I reach my destination. For me, putting my faith in God brings me comfort.

Sleep: I am not a napper, so this is a hard one for me. However, as one leg of my trip leaves early in the morning, and one leg is 16 hours long, I think sleeping my cares away will be a great option for dealing with my fear of flying. This is where those meds some people take come in, they help you relax enough that you can fall asleep. Or just relax so you’re not worrying.

Anyone else have a fear of flying? What are some of your coping techniques?

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  1. AwesomelyOZ says

    These are some definite great tips – I think the logic is very effective however, when you feel things like “turbulence” it doesn’t do much to soothe your highly active nerves. I think we shouldn’t underestimate what a happy dose of ativan will do :P Have a safe trip to Africa and looking forward to hearing about your adventures! -Iva

  2. Natalie says

    For the most part, I love flying. The worst bits are taking off and landing–for some reason, I find these parts are the scariest! I try to think about something else pleasant during these times, read a book, or do controlled breathing. Then, once we’re in the air, I’m okay again. I can’t wait to hear about your Africa trip!

    • Kimberly says

      Thanks for visiting Natalie! Yeah, I think they’ve said that take off and landing are the times with the highest risk. Still safer than driving, which I do almost everyday!

  3. Capt Tom Bunn LCSW says

    Hi Kimberly,
    As a airline captain (now retired0 and licensed therapist, I’ve spent 30 years developing effective ways to deal with flying. First, everything I’ve learned is in my new book (you can find it on Amazon or locally) SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying.

    But for absolutely free help, I have an app that is getting rave reviews. It is at

    The calming techniques you list can be made remarkably effective if you link them, one by one in your mind, to a troublesome flight situation. But there are even more effective thinks to link than a nice relaxing moment. Research by neuroscientist Stephen Porges has identify two types: 1. the face of a person who is empathically attuned; that overrides the effect of stress hormones. 2. sexual chemistry. Remember a moment when your defenses melted. They melted because you produced a hormone called oxytocin. That hormone, when produced, shuts down your fear system. That is natures way to, as Porges says in his scholarly PhD language, “facilitating reproductive behavior.”

    Amazingly effective.

    • Kimberly says

      Hi Tom, thanks for stopping by! I’ll be sure to check out your site and app. Maybe I’ll have another coping mechanism. Not sure if my hubby would have appreciated me trying the sexual chemistry method, since he wasn’t with me. :)

  4. AmandaHalm says

    Absolutely. I was on a really turbulent flight once and it scared me so badly it was hard to fly again. But what calms me now is not thinking about it. And not having coffee the day of. And just putting it out of my mind, convincing myself it’s the most natural thing in the world.

    • Kimberly says

      Those turbulent flights are the worst! Good for you getting past it. I love taking trips, so I just accept it. I should be more concerned with the drive to the airport! :) Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Brittany says

    Just like you, I love to travel but I really dislike flying! To cope I pray a lot and I like to listen to music as a distraction. Most of the time these coping mechanisms work. Then there are those really turbulent flights. I have anxiety on those flights until we land!

    • Kimberly says

      I was thankful that most of my flights were pretty smooth. A bit of turbulence, but not as bad as some flights I’ve been on. Landing in Atlanta yesterday was rough — high winds meant a rough approach and very hard landing, but we made it! Yahoo! :)

  6. Lourdes says

    I, too have a fear of flying which is ironic because in the last 10 years I”ve logged many air miles with
    17+ hour flights. Flying to Asia or Middle East from the states has proven quite challenging. I don’t like to medicate as I fear a loss of control…not that I could do anything if trouble occurred. I pray. I pray. Then I pray some more! It does bring me comfort – I visualize the airplane being in the palm of God’s hands..

    I also read or try to immerse myself in the movies – the choices being quite good on those long flights. Thanks for your post! Feels good to know I’m not alone “up there” in feeling so nervous while in flight.

    Have a great trip ;-)

    • Kimberly says

      Glad to see I’m not the only one up there praying! On the return flight from Johannesburg I watched 4 movies — the free movie access is one plus on those long overseas flights! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hannah R says

    I saw this on pinterest and decided to read it because next week im going to fly by myself to visit my husband. I’ll be getting dropped by a friend of my in laws but someone I’ve never met, and I’ve always been dropped off by my parents or had my husband go with to fly. This post helped me to relax and know I will most likely be just fine and make it to my destination in one piece. My husband is in the military so I have been flying alone more and im trying to get past the nauseous feeling that comes with the stress of flying. Your relaxation tip sounds like one I’ll try to use next weekend :)

    • Kimberly says

      Hi Hannah! So glad you jumped over to read the post. I’m safely home after NINE flights in the last 24 days. :) By flights eight and nine I was feeling pretty okay about the idea of flying. Hope you did okay with your flights!

  8. Kimberly H. Smith says

    I have used all of these mechanisms for dealing with my fear of flying. I should use logic way more though. LOL. I do a lot of praying and reading. One time I was so tired that I fell asleep while on the tarmac and woke up mid-flight. That’s something I wish I could do more of too. Thank for sharing, Kimberly. #SITSBlogging

    • Kimberly says

      I always wish I could sleep more on flights! That would sure be a great way to have the time go by. Thanks for stopping by Kimberly!

  9. Lauren F says

    These are great tips. I have so much trouble flying and I get a panic attack every time. The flights with TVs are super helpful to keep me distracted…so is my 4 year old. Safe travels!

    • Kimberly says

      All my flights were great Lauren. The return trip I really took advantage of those little tvs & free movies – watched 4 movies! :)

  10. Kim says

    I will be flying to Johannasburg with my 7 year old daughter, my husband and my parents at the end of the month and I am having quite a few anxiety attacks about it. I am on an anti-anxiety med and also take Xanax when I fly but what gets me the MOST is the weeks leading up to the flight. I try to just pray and pray but when I see so many articles about planes going missing or whatever they do, it terrifies me!! I am so glad that I came across your post because it’s exactly what I am dealing with…even the same Atlanta to Joburg flight!! I try my absolute hardest to not let my anxiety show because I don’t ever want my daughter to be afraid!! Hope you have/had fun! Thanks!

    • Kimberly says

      Hi Kim! I’m so glad you commented! I had a wonderful trip, and safe and smooth flights. My father-in-law spent most of last year flying that route of Atlanta to Jo’berg about every month and he’s flown many more trips than that in his lifetime. It’s good that you’re aware of how your reactions can influence your daughter and I too try to make sure my kids don’t pick up on my fear. They’ve been flying since they were babies and now love going on airplanes. I know it’s so easy to worry because flying seems like such an unnatural thing, but there are thousands of flights every day! It’s a very safe form of transportation, outranking driving and even walking I think! :)
      I’ll pray for you too and I hope that you can find some peace leading up to your trip. Africa is an amazing place and I’m sure you’re going to have a wonderful trip. Make sure you try and focus on all the great things to look forward to and just ignore the thought of the upcoming flight as much as possible! Wishing you the best and I’d love to hear about your trip after you return home.

  11. Cameron E says

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site. I leave for South Africa in about a month and am dreading this 16 hour flight. I used to love flying until a flight I took a couple of years ago had bad turbulence. I wish I could shake the fear but any time that plane shakes it comes crashing back! I’ve considered anti-anxiety meds for my upcoming flight, but have also just considered NyQuil (figuring if I could get a solid 6 or 7 hours of sleep on the flight, I might be able to deal with the remaining 9ish hours. And of course I pray. I love that you included that in your calming techniques. I loved hearing I wasn’t alone in this fear! Hope you enjoyed your travels

    • Kimberly says

      I definitely enjoyed my trip! And, you might look into over the counter sleeping pills (benadryl) instead of the nyquil if you want to sleep on the flight. I have a fried who has had luck with that. :)

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