7 things you can do to ease your fear of flying

Air travel is one of the astonishing accomplishments of the modern era: In less than a day, you can step on an airplane and arrive just about anywhere on earth.

But for some people (even people who love to travel!) the process of getting there is riddled with stress, anxiety, and fear. The fear of flying, whether it be pre-takeoff jitters or fully-fledged aviophobia, affects more people than you might think, even though flying is one of the safest forms of travel.

In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, flight anxiety affects more than 20 million Americans.

If fear of flying is something you struggle with, here are seven steps you can take to ease your fear:

1 Understand what turbulence really is

Turbulence can be freaky to even the least-stressed airplane traveler, but in reality, it’s just routine shifts in wind – stuff birds deal with every day.

“Most of the turbulence that the general population encounters is so minimal compared to what the airplane can take, Kevin Kelly, a senior pilot on a U.S. commercial airline, told Travel and Leisure.

2 Pick a seat toward the front of the plane 

If turbulence, noise, or claustrophobia triggers your airplane anxiety, be sure to reserve a seat as close to the front as possible.

U.S.-based airline JetBlue says airplanes are quieter up toward the front. According to Kelly, the front of the plane also experiences the least amount of turbulence.

“If you’ve ever ridden in the back of the bus, that will be the bumpiest ride, and that’s true in an airplane too, he said.

3There’s an app for that

If flying freaks you out and you have access to a smartphone, you can use an app to walk you through calming yourself down. VALK, a flight-app developed by a former pilot and licensed therapist, comes equipped with videos to talk you through the main triggers of flight anxiety.

“With this, you can have a therapist with you all the time, van Gerwen, director of the VALK Foundation, told the Washington Post.

4Distract yourself

Julia Cameron, who has struggled with a fear of flying for most of her life, penned the book, Safe Journey: Prayers and Comfort for Frightened Flyers and Other Anxious Souls.

Beyond prayer, which she uses as a coping mechanism from boarding to de-planing, Cameron recommends distracting yourself with frivolous reading or viewing material (gossip mags, etc.) to take your mind off your surroundings.

5 Workshop it

Some airports have workshops available for people who are afraid to fly. SFO, for example, has a workshop called Fear of Flying, in which travelers can speak with a licensed therapist who uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help them conquer their fears.

Travel writer Marlena Spieler took the course at SFO, and exposure to “the enthusiasm of the pilots, the reassurance of the psychologists, the demystification of the airline volunteers, and the behind the scenes visits, helped her learn to fly without fear, she told T&L.

6 Talk to a therapist

If fear of flying is causing you undue stress or turmoil, there’s absolutely no shame in seeking out a professional to help you work through it.

If the airport you travel through frequently doesn’t have a fear of flying workshop, a licensed therapist can use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in your sessions before you fly. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is proven to help participants work themselves out of specific patterns of thought.

“If you change your thoughts, you can change your response and behavior, said Lisa Jackson, the editor of Eat Drink Travel, who also struggles with flight-based fear.

7 Focus on where you’re going

Big trip planned? Epic vacation? Busy work trip? Think about the things you’re going to do once you arrive at your destination. You live in a world where air travel is possible, and even though flying may seem scary, it can still take you to all sorts of amazing places.

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