10 ways to prepare a positive mindset for flying


It’s starting to feel like summer now and we’re heading in to that time of year when people start to think about their upcoming holidays that they booked in the depths of winter. We seek sun (although as I type this it’s pretty hot and sunny here), adventure and time away from the stresses and strains of every day life.

Typically, once the holiday is booked, most people count down the days, so excited about their upcoming holiday but for others the time between booking that ticket and getting on the plane can be fraught with anxiety, negative thoughts and fear. And for some people just the thought of getting on a plane stops them from booking a holiday in the first place. Is this you?

Fears and phobias of flying are very common and can really take the enjoyment out of holidays. Flying phobias effect people in a number of ways and can range in severity from slight feelings of anxiety and discomfort to a full on panic attack and losing control of the situation. Some people decide not to holiday abroad in order to avoid flying and the anxiety and fear that accompanies it but this only reinforces the problem.

Here are 10 top tips to help you to prepare the right mindset for flying so that you can have a better experience of it:

1. Imaginal exposure. Spend some time imagining taking the flight. Not all the worse case scenarios nor your perfect flight but a more realistic representation of what happens. Imagine it as if you are actually there. It’s important that you are nicely relaxed while you do this. Notice the discomfort that you’re experiencing as you imagine it, how it plateaus and then starts to diminish the more you imagine the scenario.

2. Focus on how you would like things to be. Typically when we are fearful of something, we tend to worry about every possible thing that could go wrong. I am certain that when you think about flying, you are thinking about the worse case scenarios. When we think in this way, we create unnecessary stress for ourselves and the anxiety builds which makes us think more negatively. We get trapped in a cycle of negative thinking. So be aware of the thoughts that you are having. Start thinking about how you would to think, feel and be in the lead up to and during the flight.

3. Share concerns with others. Discuss your fear with your friends and family, especially those you are travelling with. Quite often, people keep their fears to themselves but this can make things a lot worse especially as you can start to worry about how you might appear to everyone around you and being “found out”. When people around you are aware of how you feel, they can support you through it.

4. Looking forward. When you’re scared of flying, everything becomes about the flight. More often than not, the place you are visiting, the things you’re going to do, and all the fun that can ensue, is put aside. Readdress this balance by spending time thinking about where you’re staying, what you are looking forward to seeing and doing, the food and drink you want to sample, discovering things about a place you’ve never been before and learning about the culture.

5. Be prepared. Do everything you can to minimise stress on the day of your flight. Ensure that you have packed your bags and have everything you need ready at least the day before you are due to travel. Have a relaxing bath and do other things to help you relax before getting a good night’s sleep. If you have time in the morning, have breakfast. Leave plenty of time to get to the airport so you don’t have to rush or worry about whether you’ll miss your flight or not. These are all simple things to support you physically and mentally, helping to take the load off for when you travel.

6. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Some people have a few drinks before or during a flight to give them a bit of Dutch courage, to help them through. This is a bad idea. Alcohol is a depressant and can lower your mood, make you more anxious, and reduce your ability to control your thoughts and feelings. Caffeine can make you feel jittery and more anxious so it’s best to avoid it before and during your flights.

7. Occupy your mind. Some people are inclined to just sit and not do anything as they feel that they need to focus all their attention on not falling to pieces. Unfortunately this tends to have the opposite effect than intended. My advice is to do things to occupy your mind in order to reduce the introspection and rumination about the flight. So when you are waiting for your flight at the airport, browse the shops and duty free, go have something to eat or drink, and spend time chatting to the people you are travelling with (or anyone that will listen if you’re travelling alone). Make sure you take a book, magazine, phone and/or tablet with you so that you can entertain yourself during the flight. If you are going on a long haul flight then you will have the inflight entertainment as an option so spend some time browsing what’s on offer. If you have a relaxation audiotrack, make sure you have it loaded on your phone along with earphones so that you can listen to it.

8. Be present. When we are worried about things, we can lose ourselves in our thoughts and all manner of crazy things can come up. By shifting your focus outwards, to your environment, you start to focus on what is actually happening rather than what you think is happening. Focus on your senses, what you can see, hear, taste, touch and smell. Focus on things that are positive and neutral though.

9. Relax. Spend some time tuning in to your body and releasing any tension that you might have. A favourite technique of mine is tensing the muscles in your feet then relaxing them off, and systematically working your way up through the rest of the body. By tensing the muscles first, it makes it easier to relax the muscles afterwards.

10. Breathe. Breathing techniques help to trigger the relaxation response. Even if your breathing is fine, they are excellent, simple tools that you can use to help you feel more in control. 7/11 breathing is a popular one, whereby you breath in to the count of 7 and out for the count of 11 but there are others too which you might find more suited to you.

These top tips can help you feel more prepared and in control when you fly. Hypnotherapy is also very effective at helping you to change how you think and feel about flying. When I work with flying phobia clients, we delve deeper in to the tips I’ve given above and explore other avenues too. I help you to identify negative thinking errors about the flight, and teach you how to dispute the thoughts and beliefs that you hold about flying and reconstruct them in to something more positive that brings down your anxiety and fear. Imaginal exposure and desensitisation forms a huge part of the work I do with clients. These techniques have been used in clinical practice for over 50 years to help people overcome anxiety and fear and have an incredible evidence base supporting them. I will also teach you methods of relaxing as well as how to control your feelings helping you to reduce those physical feelings typically associated with anxiety and stress such as heart palpitations, rapid breathing, and sweating, among others.

Flying phobias vary massively from person to person so I tailor my sessions specifically to you. Hypnotherapy gives you the necessary tools for you to be able to board that plane, take off, be at altitude, experience turbulence and land in a calmer way where you are in control of how you think, feel and behave.

I'm not saying that you will go from having an intense fear of flying to absolutely loving it but hypnotherapy can help you to cope with it effectively so that you can enjoy your holiday more thoroughly.

If you would like to find out more about how hypnotherapy can help a flying phobia, check out my phobias page on my website.

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