How to Get Over a Fear of Flying

Marina Khidekel, Allure magazine

Fear of flying is a learned reaction and can be unlearned. I have seen dozens of white-knuckled fliers become comfortable on a plane. You just have to learn to harness the thoughts that feed your fear.

An interview with Duane Brown, the author of Flying Without Fear (New Harbinger), was formerly the lead trainer for American Airlines' program of seminars for people with flying phobias.

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Don't share. Try to stifle the urge to discuss your anxiety about flying with everyone around you. You'll be bombarded with people's personal horror stories of turbulent trips and other anecdotes that will only stoke your fear. If the topic does come up, change the subject so you don't absorb others' worries.

Sit up. If the cramped quarters on a plane bother you, book a bulkhead seat, where you might have more room. Immediately turn the air nozzle above you all the way up. Keeping your face cool has been shown to make claustrophobic people feel less panicked. Afraid of turbulence? Sit on the axis of the plane, over the wing, where the motion is less pronounced.

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Distance yourself.
Be prepared for irrational thoughts, because you can't prevent yourself from having them. As you board the plane, slip a hair elastic around your wrist. When you catch yourself thinking, We're going to crash, snap the band-it interrupts your negative thoughts and places you firmly in the moment. Then dispute your irrational feelings. This can mean visualizing yourself sagely at your destination or glancing at a note card you've prepared that reads something like, "Breathe. You'll be fine." It may sound hokey, but it works.

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Take a deep breath.
It helps to know what's physically happening to you when you panic, so you can remind yourself that it's a normal reaction. Your heart may race and your breathing may get rapid and shallow. If that happens, hold your breath for three counts and breath out slowly for three counts-too much shallow breathing floods the bloodstream with carbon dioxide, which makes you dizzy. Steadying your breathing gives you a sense of control over your body and slows the rush of adrenaline that makes panic worse.

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