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How to overcome your fear of flying

Nervous tensions can affect many parts of our life. We spoke with an expert about navigating our time spent in the skies. 

Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre founder Pauline McKinnon said that while a fear of flying is of course a matter of individual temperament and one's early life environment, introverts are usually more sensitive to such scenarios. 

"Such people also favour feeling in control of any situation (difficult to some extent when secured within an aircraft!) and are also highly imaginative and quite reactive to stimuli of any kind," she explained. 

"So, if faced with a flight, regardless of the excitement surrounding destination, many 'what ifs' will most likely arise." 

"These cogitations lead to increase nervous tension which in turn increases cortisone release (the stress hormone) and with all that happening, it won't take long for such an anxious person to find themselves very fearful of the situation." 

There are numerous mental health consequences to a fear of flying, she said, and stepping onto a plane can have an immediate impact upon a person.

"Typically, stress and anticipatory anxiety levels will be very high with early symptoms such as increased tension, feelings of dread, sweating, trembling, nausea, mental overwhelm and increased anxiety often leading to panic." 

People who suffer from this extreme form of fear often need more than just simple tips to manage it.

But, as a starting point, she said "recognition of the fact that a very high percentage of people live with extreme levels of tension".

"The most important tip I can suggest is the need to learn to truly relax. Meanwhile, some people may find comfort in taking a 'fear of flying' course as offered through various airlines," she added.

Nervous tension is detrimental to many aspects of life, she continued, as it contributes to headaches, jaw pain, neck and shoulder pain, among other ailments.

"Tension is basically a really bad habit that can create a range of discomforts – even anger," she said.  "So, to have a fear of flying could be an advantageous hint to make some general improvements to health and wellbeing." 

When it comes to looking after friends and who are fearful of getting on planes, she suggested supporting the truth of the situation. 

"Short term measures that may assist include listening and truly hearing what the sufferer is experiencing, offering companionship, alternative transport if absolutely necessary, remaining tolerant, and supporting people in their search to find an effective solution." 

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