The Get-a-Grip Guide to Conquering Your Worst Fears
What's behind it: There are many types of fearful fliers. Some are scared of crashes, while others have developed anxiety over terrorist hijackings post-9/11. Control issues also play a role, says Steinitz. "In a plane, you have to trust that the pilots know what they're doing." When flying, unlike driving, you can't get out whenever you want, which sets up a vicious cycle: Some fliers feel claustrophobic and fear they'll have an anxiety attack. Underlying these anxieties are troubles with risk assessment, explains Steinitz. "Anxious people confuse the possibility of an event with the probability of an event," he says. "Yes, the plane could be hijacked or crash, but it's extremely improbable." Though accidents are few, they get a lot of media coverage, exaggerating fears. "There are risks in everyday life. Ask yourself why you're investing so much energy in one that's so unlikely," he suggests.
Pro tip: James Wysong, flight attendant and author of The Plane Truth: Shift Happens at 35,000 Feet
To feel calm and in control, suggests Wysong, ask at the gate for a seat in front of the wings, where turbulence feels milder. "If you do hit a bump, sway with the motion instead of stiffening up, which makes it seem more intense," he says. And repeat to yourself: Those ups and downs don't mean that anything is wrong. Wysong's tried-and-true tip: "Watch the in-flight movie. You'll be on the ground again before you know it."
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July 2006.
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