Scared of flying? Five top tips for staying in control while in the air

GLOBAL travel is at the heart of both our working and personal lives, yet one in six of us suffers from pteromerhanophobia – the fear of flying. For many, the Malaysian Airlines tragedy brought this into sharp focus; we all know that the chance of disaster is minute, but once the nagging doubt creeps in – you are, after all, riding a several-hundred tonne metal tube through the skies – it’s hard to shake.

We asked fear of flying specialist Lawrence Leyton, who runs the Fearless Flyer course in association with easyJet and Gatwick airport, what his top tips are for staying calm in the air.

1. FOCUS
Focus only on what you want rather than what you don’t want. If I say to you don’t think of an elephant, what do you do? So if you’re thinking: “I don’t want to die,” you’ll end up focusing on death!

So remember to focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want. On the course I show people how to take control of their thinking – they soon realize fear is a choice.

2. CONTROL YOUR BREATHING
People don’t realise that when you’re anxious you start shallow breathing from the upper part of your abdomen. Short, shallow breaths will automatically make you more anxious.

When we are relaxed we breath from the lower part of the abdomen. So if you feel yourself getting anxious then immediately place your hand on your stomach and take some nice deep breaths to make sure your breathing is coming from down there. You should be able to feel your hand expand and contract against your lower abdomen.

3. GO TO THE MOVIES
The movies that you play in your head control how you feel. Most people will play the worse case scenario over and over again in their mind; a plane crashing in mid-air. Of course, if you keep playing that movie this will create fear.

So imagine going to the movies but this time, see something more soothing. It will change the way you feel and the way you behave.

During the course we focus on some really amazing techniques to change these negative mind movies effortlessly and permanently.

4. CHANGE YOUR INTERNAL DIALOGUE
Our negative internal dialogue can talk us into problematic states of mind. You have to learn to be aware of what you say to yourself, especially when you start to feel anxious. Remember we are in control of our “self-talk” – we just don’t realise it. We have the ability to change it. The first step is to become aware of it, and then try to change it for something more productive and calming.

5. DON’T FILL IN THE GAPS
You have to learn how to spot the illusions you carry around with you. Our minds tend to fill the gaps in our knowledge or perception because it is not in control of them. Every time you hear an unusual noise or feel a funny movement or sensation, your brain tends to fill in the gaps. If you have a vivid imagination, as most phobics do, you tend to fill in the gaps with negative meanings. So a simple call bell for the cabin staff becomes a signal that the plane is about to make an emergency landing

You need to avoid filling in those gaps and get hold of the facts. If you are not sure what a “bing” means or the sound of the air con then ask the cabin staff instead of making it all up in your head.

During the course our very experienced captain goes through every single sound a plane makes during a flight. By the end of that session people are in control of the facts and it makes a massive difference to their confidence.