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Dear Christine, Anxious in Ann Arbor

| July 30, 2017

Dear Christine,
Fear of flying!! So I’m a 47 year old man who travels 2 to 3 times a year for work and once a year for a vacation with my husband. I am terrified every single time. It doesn’t stop Me from going. I have to. Each flight requires two martinis and a .5 Xanax. By the time I get to my destination, I need a nap. I have never found a way to be less anxious about flying and hate doping myself up. Is there help?  Anxious in Ann Arbor

Dear Anxious,
Flying is a pretty noxious experience these days, even without anxiety!  There are several approaches to reducing your anxiety and the need to dope yourself up.

Ten Fear of Flying Facts
1. One person in three has some degree of fear of flying.
2. One person in six is unable to fly due to fear of flying.
3. The average age at which this fear develops is twenty-seven.
4. Anticipatory anxiety before flying is often worse than feelings when flying.
5. For many fearful fliers, the most difficult part of the flight is cruise.
6. Cruise is difficult because of turbulence and feeling up high.
7. The term fear of flying is in common usage due to the title of a novel.
8. Fear of flying may include claustrophobia and fear of in-flight panic.
9. Landing is often a relief because the emotional ordeal is almost over.
10. Whatever fear of flying means to you, SOAR can relieve the problem.
<http://www.fearofflying.com/>
One method is called “exposure” which means being exposed to what you fear in small amounts in a controlled environment, getting past those initial moments and surviving.  Then, moving on to greater amounts of exposure.  There are classes you can take in this, often at airports or with therapists who may even be a pilot as well.  They usually have you go on a plane that isn’t going anywhere, talk about the symptoms you’re feeling and learn methods to manage them.  There are several classes, ending with a graduation flight, to prove to yourself that you can fly!  There are on line video classes (11 DVDs and 2 hours of counseling) as well.  Check out www.fearofflying.comthat features Rapid Relief Complete Relief classes and the SOAR Program which are guaranteed. 
If your fears are not that debilitating, you might try some energy psychology.  I teach some of these methods to my clients.  One is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) https://www.emofree.com/eft-tutorial/tapping-basics/what-is-eft.html created by Gary Craig.  This uses Chinese medicine’s “chi” lines of energy in the body and tapping on various end points or meridians (no needles as in acupuncture) of these lines while thinking about what is upsetting to you.  It sounds contradictory, but focusing on your phobia while tapping reduces the emotion’s intensity.  It’s not a panacea most of the time, but it’s easy to self-administer and I think of it as being like a “volume control” for emotions. 
A further energy psychology tip I first learned from Donna Eden, who practices energy medicine.  You will never meet a more loving and happy person than Donna Eden!  http://www.innersource.net/em/  One of her techniques to balance the “chi” and reduce anxiety is as to cross the centerline of the body (ankles, knees, arms, hands) to strengthen the self and decrease negative emotions.  One tip is as follows:  
“A simple tip which is great to reduce anxiety is the Over Energy Correction. Cross the left ankle over the right, extend arms with the back of your hands facing each other, bring your right hand over your left, clasp your fingers together, fold arms and hands inward and rest on your chest just under the chin; rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth and breathe deeply for 1 or 2 minutes. This exercise is very calming for acute anxiety and assists in promoting sleep.”
Many therapists recommend using meditation and using headphones to listen to whatever is calming for you while you fly.  Of course, electronics are turned off for take off and landing, so it’s helpful to practice at home before getting on a plane, so that you can spend 10 or 15 minutes of those critical parts of the flight in peace.  Fear of Flying School offers 21 stress management techniques, all proven by science.  Some are basic:  get enough sleep.  Minimize caffeine, avoid nicotine, don’t overdo alcohol, slow breathing, laugh, avoid unhappy people, do yoga, have sex!, tense and then relax all of your muscles from top to bottom of your whole body.  Develop your positive emotions, give hugs, exercise aerobically (hard to do ON the plane), get a massage, use the EFT technique.  Of course, listen to relaxing music, avoid the news,, and challenge your stress inducing thoughts, as they might not have as much validity as you fear.  Did you know that flying is the very safest mode of transportation?  It’s actually safer than driving to the airport!   http://fearofflyingschool.com/stress-management-techniques
Remember that reducing your overall anxiety, controlling what you have control over, will be a good basis to start with.  Good luck to you.  If trying these techniques on your own aren’t enough, don’t hesitate to take a class at the airport or schedule some therapy with a psychologist. 
Christine C Cantrell, PhD
Fully Licensed Psychologist

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067
248-591-2888

Click here to email Christine.

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