How to Conquer a Fear of Flying

Flying on a plane is something I do almost twice every month – if I’m lucky, just once. By now, most people think that I should already be used to flying on planes, the pungent odor inside of planes, the usual heart-pounding turbulence that occurs every now and then, and the chilling sounds the engine makes right when the plane is getting ready for take-off, but no matter how many times I’ve traveled back and forth all over the world, I still have not learned how to conquer my fear of flying.

How to Conquer a Fear of Flying

You can call me crazy, call me weak, but no matter what I do, I still get this unexplainable feeling of fear, anxiety, and nervousness whenever I arrive at an airport. My creative imagination doesn’t even help me one bit—it actually makes things worse, causing me to create more gruesome images in my mind. If it wasn’t for the free plane ticket, great accommodations, and high-paying salary from work, I wouldn’t step in an airplane ever in my life!

Will I ever overcome my fear of flying? I’m a frequent flyer, yet I still have not learned how to conquer my fear of flying; how ridiculous is that? I knew I needed help – right away. I took matters into my own hands; I read countless self-help books and tried out practically any kind of method to help me calm my nerves. At the end of the day, I knew I was one step closer to finding a solution to conquer my fear of flying. My journey started when I decided to habitually practice a few techniques that will break down my wall of fear in the hopes of never being scared to fly again.

Drown Out the Noise One of the things that spark my panic attack the minute I step inside the plane is the ear-buzzing sound that I hear all around me. Even the slightest unknown sound that I hear makes me nervous: the sound of the air conditioning, the engine, and even the loud clicking sounds the luggage compartment door makes.

But at last, I came up with a technique to tone down the noise – ear plugs. Yes, those tiny buds that you stick inside your ears to drown out the sounds. Right when they start lining us up for boarding, I quickly place my ear plugs securely inside my ears; doing this has made me less observant to all the unnecessary noise that occurs all around me, making me feel less nervous and paranoid. Who would’ve thought that something as simple as ear plugs could help minimize one’s uneasiness?

Keep Yourself Entertained 

The one thing that I despise the most when traveling by plane (aside from the fact that I have a flying phobia) is the waiting part – just sitting there anticipating the moment the captain says, “We are now descending, please be prepared for landing.” This part of the plane ride is where I sit waiting for something bad to happen; my imagination starts to go wild (engine getting caught on fire, wings flapping off, etc.), which isn’t really the best thing to do if you’re someone like me who is on the verge of learning how to conquer a fear of flying, so you know what I’ve started to do? Make myself busy. I listen to stress-relieving music or watch a movie; I put on my headphones (even while my ear plugs are still attached) and crank the volume really loud and just keep myself entertained for the duration of the flight. If a movie is not available, I just listen to my music and read a book or a magazine. Keeping yourself busy helps to put your focus on anything else other than the plane ride and all the other wild things going on in your mind.

Expect the Expected fear of flying

I’ve been on an airplane so many times that I already lost count, which means I should also already know what to expect every single time, right? Wrong. Every plane ride feels like it’s my first. I sit in my chair (seat belt fastened, of course) worried about the slightest sound, herds of people walking back and forth in the aisles, baggage compartments being opened and closed, and the ‘Fasten Seat Belt’ sign turning on and off – everything around me makes me even more nervous. This time around, however, I taught myself to be much smarter, to expect the expected. You already know about the random turbulence that you’ll be experiencing every now and then; there’ll be bumpy ones and even more rough ones, but you have to remember that it’s just turbulence – it’s normal. In order to teach yourself how to conquer your fear of flying, you have to continually take control of your thoughts and not let them take control of your fears.

Happy Scents

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I seriously hate the smell of the plane’s interior. Its indescribable odor makes me want to gag. Right when I go near the entrance to the plane, my head starts to spin and I am in my state of anxiety. What could it be? Could it be because our brains are tied to our sense of smell? I’ve read about how a certain smell can affect our mood or bring us back to a past experience.

The 2 Week Diet

A method that I have practiced ever since I started learning how to overcome my fear of flying is carrying a small scented oil bottle (I prefer mint) with me because sniffing it once in a while helps erase the unpleasant odor of the airplane and fills my nose with a sweet scent. Other scents such as perfume, the smell of cherry from a lip balm, or a scented candle or bar of soap can also be useful; whatever scent lifts your mood, use it. It’ll greatly help in conquering your fear of flying.

Sleep it Off

All the different techniques to conquer a fear of flying may or may not all work for some. If all else fails and you still can’t control your anxiety, then the best solution is to just close your eyes and sleep. Sleeping it all off will take me to dreamland where I will completely forget that I’m in an airplane, thousands of feet above land. Although you can’t expect to be sleeping comfortably in the airplane chairs, not unless you’re flying in style in the business class section, sleeping can aid in overcoming a fear of flying because it will lessen the time spent being awake and worrying about the unknown; it will also refresh your mind and make you feel rejuvenated.

Having a fear of flying is a serious matter. At one time or another, a person has and will have to travel by plane, so it is better to find a solution to conquer a fear of flying now than continue living with that fear for the rest of your life. Learning how to conquer your fear of flying is not difficult; in fact, anyone can do it (I know I did) – that is if only you are willing to reprogram your mind. Once you develop the methods that will help you with your fear of flying, you will carry on to conquer your other fears in life.

About the author

Mae Davies

BA, MA Psychology (and Conflict Resolution), University of Cambridge (2007). With a decade of trial and error in psychology and 33 years of navigating my own complex (that's one word for it!) relationships with family, friends, co-workers and men, I hope I have some useful knowledge and skills to share with my readers about making sense of relationships and trying to become a better person every day.