Flying And How We Can Cope With Fear.
By Eric Hartwell
Thursday, 12th April 2007
Fear of flying has more to do with our inherent vulnerability and fragility of life than statistics - flying is 29 times safer than riding in an automobile - but statistics seldom sway the fearful.

They fear different things, depending on their viewpoint, because flying encompasses several common, related phobias such as heights, enclosed passages and spaces (claustrophobia), crowds, sitting still in a passive way, and not understanding the plethora of sounds, sensations and noises occurring around you.

Others are worried about possible turbulence, terrorism, or loss of control. A psychologist may be able to help you work with any past airline-related traumas so that you can resume flying. In the case of a legitimate trauma, it may require steady, focused treatment with a trained professional to help you bring them to the surface and work through them a little bit at a time.

Airline travel is associated with the following conditions, ones that have nothing to do with anxiety or fear, but can sometimes mimic the physiological reactions of a fear response: vestibular (inner ear) problems, sinus pain, muscular pain, joint pain, tingling, traveler's thrombosis, mitral valve prolapse, hypoglycemia, allergic reactions, and lack of oxygen.

Cognitive coping strategies such as rumination, self-blame, acceptance, and catastrophizing are associated with airline travel. These techniques can be used to alleviate the damaging psychological traps we fall into when confronted with an impending plane flight.

The first, rumination, is when you "expand your awareness beyond the current unpleasant situation" by thinking of pleasant things and/or realizing that sitting in fear doesn't do anything to make the flight any safer. It's a form of mental imagery combined with acceptance, and it's a frame of mind shift.

The second, self-blame, seeks to take away the negative wheedling you do to your personality and re-channel it into positive thoughts like, "I did the best I could the last flight," and, "I'm doing the best I can. I will get better with practice."

The third, resignation, gives yourself credit for your own good sense - in contrast with your phobic thinking. For instance, "I can take relaxed, slow, deep breaths and practice muscle relaxation and autogenics." In it, you and your partner affirm the new shift in thinking with confirmation of the rational techniques you're using to combat it.

Catastrophizing, on the other hand, acknowledges your fear and then challenges it. You realize that you have a problem with nervousness and then you pose a challenge to it. For example, "I know I am afraid to get on the plane, but I don't run away from my challenges. I am not the kind of person to do that. I must master this part of my life."

Depending on the nature of your fear, some treatments to look into are systematic desensitization, muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, autogenics, finding the underlying traumas associated with airplane travel through a trained professional or psychologist, getting over the existential fear of death, i.e., The Concept of Anxiety by Soren Kieregaard, and certain medications. However, medications should be tested on the ground to certify that there are no reactions - allergic or otherwise. Plus, never mix medications with alcoholic beverages as it can produce drowsiness or other unpleasant nervous system reactions.

Eric Hartwell oversees "The World's Best Homepage" intended to be a user-generated resource where YOUR opinion counts. Anybody can contribute and all are welcomed. Visit us to read, comment upon or share opinions on travel and vacation - www.theworldsbesthomepage.com
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