"What Worked For Me"

Unique tips & ideas other people have used succesfully on real flights to deal with their fears. Their advice can work for you too!

Please send me your ideas, tips, and stories to include here. 

A matter of perspective...

Last week I embarked on a flight to Florida. I took the Captain's course, bought and read Wings of Discovery and made a donation for good karma and as a thanks to the Captain for all of his wonderful help. The morning of my flight I felt better and more confident than I had in many years. My heart wasn't pounding, I wasn't fretting, I was so proud of myself and so grateful to Captain Stacey.

I boarded the plane and I was seated next to one of our soldiers. Almost immediately we began to chat and he told me he was on his way home from Iraq for a short two-week visit with his family. As we continued to talk I also learned that he had been shot (had the badge to show it), had barely missed many a roadside bomb, had watched four of his close friends die and he was going back to Iraq for four more months until he could come home for good. All this and he is only 22. I, at 32, sat stunned.

At some point we ran into a few "bumps" and I got a little nervous and I heard myself say "I'm not a great flyer." As soon as the words came out of my mouth I realized how ridiculous they sounded sitting next to him. He who has been on a plane for two days straight just to get home (Iraq to Kuwait, Kuwait to Germany, Germany to New York, New York to Dallas-where I met him-Dallas to Houston, and then, finally, Houston to Louisianna to see his little boy and family. He who has to take off from arguably the world's most dangerous airport where the planes have to take off going almost straight up in the air and land in a downward spiral to avoid being shot at or blown up with a missile. He whose life is on the line every, single day and has already escaped death once..yes, I really felt silly uttering those words.

In that moment the word perspective came to me and I realized that my flight to Houston and then on to Florida to go to Disneyworld of all places was nothing- nothing at all compared to what this young man has to go through and has gone through. And at that moment I knew I was done. Done with being scared to get on a plane, done with the heart racing, the panic. The captain's course laid the groundwork and gave me confidence and that soldier-Matt-sealed the deal for me.

As we were landing, he gave me some Iraqi money as a souvenir. I plan on carrying it with me on every flight I take as I reminder of my new friend and to help me remember to have perspective. I know not everyone can have the privilege of sitting next to one of our brave soldiers, but maybe you can think of him and my story the next time you get scared and realize that you are going to be just fine.

I don't think I'll ever get scared about flying again...but if I do, I am going to hold that money in my hand and remember my brave friend and get on that plane. And I will be just fine.

Videos, videos, videos!

I was worried about my recent 3 hour holiday flight (and return) so much that I couldn't sleep 3 months prior to the flight. Every time I thought about it my heart would pound and my hands would get sweaty. I knew I needed to find help and that's when I came across this course...what a relief. What worked for me was reviewing the practice flight videos and pictures until they no longer provoked anxiety. At the start they were difficult to watch but I continued to bombard my mind with these pictures and movies until they did not affect me. I bet I watched a total of 500-1000 videos! The result was when I got on the plane, it was nothing new to my mind. I enjoyed my flight and actually had an excited, anticipatory feeling for the return flight, something I had not felt since I was a kid. I hope this method helps others.

Knowledge is power . . .

What works for me the best is knowledge about the aviation world. Before I came to this site, I knew zilch about aviation. I had no idea how the plane was built, how it flew, what the noises were, etc. Not only have I read this course numerous times, I have done research online and I have bought books. What bothered me the most about flying is the weather, turbulence, takeoff, and not trusting the pilots. All that has changed for the most part. The weather still bothers me, but not nearly as much as before. I prepare for the flight by knowing the kind of aircraft I will be flying in, and most importantly, bringing along a print out of this course & Wings of Discovery to read on the plane. Sometimes I meet the pilots, which helps 100%. Takeoff still bothers me some, so in order to cope with that I just lean back in the seat, relax, close my eyes and take deep breaths. I tell myself over & over again that I will be ok. As for turbulence, I look down the center of the plane & I pretend I'm on a bus on a bumpy road. I know it sounds stupid, but it works for me. But like I said above, the most important thing is knowledge. Read about aviation. Know the aviation world. After coming to this site for a year & half, flying is an entirely different experience for me now.

Neighborly relief . . .

I have avoided flying for almost 14 years. I stopped flying years ago after experiencing a very turbulent flight, and have driven everywhere since. This past week, after taking your course, I got up the courage and flew again. After such a prolonged absence from flying, it was very difficult getting on a plane---but I did it!!! And I plan on doing it again soon. Two things that didn't work very well for me were 1. Trying to focus on anything other than flying (i.e. like reading or using a laptop), since my mind kept drifting back to flying (for someone with a substantial fear, the ability to focus away from that fear is very difficult). 2. Informing the flight attendants that I hadn't flown in some time and that I was nervous flyer. This led to a lot of good natured teasing, as well as in flight lesson on what sounds to listen for that would indicate an emergency (i.e. four bells in a row indicated a potential crash, or some sort of non-sense like that). I would imagine not everyone wants all four rows around their seat to know that they are anxious about flying. What seemed to work best for me was simply striking up a conversation with the person in the nearest seat. Talking business, careers or just current events kept me calm---especially during take off and mild turbulence.

This may sound silly, but one thing that I have found very helpful on take-off is counting. During taxi, I listen for that little "bump" that means the plane has left the ground, and then I just concentrate on counting slowly to 150 and by the time I reach that number I feel pretty secure that the plane is in the air and OK. It gives me a goal to work towards, and then once I reach it I can relax and (try to) enjoy the rest of the flight.

Keep a journal . . .

Here's a little trip report from my flight to and from Chicago to Tampa. Initially, I did NOT want to go. I knew in the back of my head that I needed to, but you never really feel ready for it. It's hard to come to terms with the fact that the feeling better comes after the doing, not before. So anyway, I put up a fuss about going for a day or two and then gave in. For 2 weeks I thought about flying while driving to work, showering, eating cereal, watering the lawn, etc. About 72 hours before the flight it really kicks in as my brain realizes that I'm more than likely not going to have a miraculous recovery before the flight. So the day of the flight I go to O'Hare and I'm not feeling too bad about it, which makes me more nervous. It's kind of like if I'm not scared of it I'm not giving it the respect it deserves and it's REALLY gonna kick me in the face. I wait for boarding, get on the plane, and contemplate how much I love soil as opposed to air. When I hear that 'ding' to close the door I feel both panic and relief; panic that I can't get off and that it's really going to happen and relief that I can't get off and it's really going to happen. I sat up front for the first time and it was so quiet as opposed to the rear of the plane (MD-80) I didn't realize we were in the takeoff roll till we were half done with it. We lifted off and the fear hits me like a two ton heavy thing. I feel a wave of fear that I'm not going to be able to leave where I'm at for two and a half hours. My brain seems to try for about 2 minutes to figure out some kind of solution to this fact, and then gives up. I take a deep breath and relax a little. I open the shade and then quickly shut it, maybe later. I start to feel proud of myself for having the guts to get on and stay on, then I feel silly for ruining two weeks worrying about a few minutes of fear. After 10 minutes I'm pretty much ok, I can look out the window and listen to music and play my Gameboy like a big dork. During cruise I occasionally get anxious, but it passes quickly. Before I know it we're descending and we're landing in Tampa. Walking out of that jet way is always such an awesome feeling of accomplishment, I feel like a NFL player walking through that tunnel after a big win; except for the cheering, and paycheck. The flight back to O'Hare was pretty much the same, little better because I still had the confidence flowing from the flight there. Let’s see what I learned or what helps me. First, the biggest thing is education about why that big thing stays in the air and why that guy in the cool uniform is qualified to keep it up there. Second, is to keep a journal when you fly. I found that after a few months of not flying, it's very hard for me to remember what flying is like when I'm not scared up there. It's nice to be able to go back to something I wrote on the plane at cruise like, "I’m relaxed and playing Gameboy like a big dork". Third, learn to breath right so you can calm yourself. Fourth is not to fight being afraid, it's not gonna hurt you no matter how real it seems. Fighting it only gives it more energy and makes it last longer. The fear is just an intimidator, a big bully. It talks a lot of trash but when it comes down to it there's no power there. Stand up to the bully and it backs down real quick. Every time you beat it, it will get easier, even if you can't notice it.

Watching takeoffs and landings . . .

One thing that really helped me is that our horse racing track is located near the airport and every Sunday for a month, my husband and I would go and sit in the grandstands watching plane after plane take-off over our heads. Each plane that passed by I would envision myself on it. So now during take-off and landings, I remember how solid those planes looked. This has actually become a habit because whenever I hear a plane I look up. Meeting the pilots and talking to FA's has also helped. I still cannot read on a plane but I can now watch the movie without paying so much attention to what is going around me which is a big accomplishment. I also can fly alcohol free and I have learned to tolerate turbulence because I know what it is now. The support I have received here has been tremendous and invaluable. No matter what fear I express on the message board, no matter how silly, no one has ever criticized me and everyone is always so supportive. My family and friends are so happy I found this course which has allowed me to travel and so am I.

Keeping in touch and informed . . .

I try to read alot about aviation, including online forums. I also enjoy looking at the beauty of flight and airplanes viewing pictures at airliners.net and jetphotos.net I spent some time at the airport before my trip looking at planes takeoff and land. I also observe them landing when they pass over my neighborhood on low altitude. I recall a Star Alliance ad which said they fly 14000 flights daily. I explain to myself that these are all safe flights (otherwise I'd be hearing about it right?) and this is only one airline group not counting others. Read some figures on airline safety sites, air safety records are much better than cars. During flight I try to make notes of what I see, take pictures, track the progress of the flight, enjoy the scenery. I look at fellow passengers and FA's. The relaxed atmosphere is noticeable (people laughing, reading papers, kids playing, FA's smiling, talking) I try to remember all the things i read on this course (breathing exercise is excellent). I focus on the destination, and then on the way back on the fact that I will see the people dear to me.

Do some math . . .

I kept watching the flight attendants; they just carried on all the time, doing their brilliant jobs, chatting away merrily, and my subconscious thought, well, if they aren’t bothered why should I be? Also, my daughter kept asking me to do multiplication - so she would keep throwing at me - "two times three hundred and ninety" etc. so instead of thinking, is this plane going to crash, I was trying to calculate sums! The homeward trip was easier, I just cried in the beginning because I didn’t want to leave, and enjoyed the flight back home, even though we hit quite a bit of turbulence over the Atlantic I kept remembering your words that the wings can take it!!!

Staying preoccupied . . .

Tips for takeoff: 1. On my last flight, as soon as the plane started moving to take off, I slowly relaxed and evenly counted from one to thirty which is about the time it takes to lift off the ground. It's a way to force your mind off negative or fearful thoughts and rather on how close you are to overcoming your concerns about a part of the flight. After that I kept on counting up to at least 2 minutes. By then, all worries about take off seem far behind. 2. Having a conversation while the plane is taking off also helps, especially if it is with somebody that you trust and care about, and if the conversation is about something that requires your OPINION and FOCUS. Keep the conversation going for the whole duration of the take off and mantain eye contact with the other person. If you are near one of the flight attendants seat, strike up a conversation about anything, your wedding, the day, even if it is about your fear. They love to chat with people. 3. Having a conforting contact from someone you trust, like holding hands for a couple of minutes, is invaluable. On many trips my sister would hold my hand until the seatbelt sign was turned off.

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