Learn more about mentalhealth with this collection
Understanding the importance of decision-making
Identifying biases that affect decision-making
Analyzing the potential outcomes of a decision
Air travel is making a comeback. Airports are preparing for more flyers this summer than they've had since the pandemic began.
But even if you're itching to get to your island vacation or attend your cousin's wedding that's been rescheduled for the third time, the thought of getting on an airplane might fill you with dread.
About 40% of Americans feel some fear at the thought of flying, and between 2.5% and 6.5% of people in the U.S. actually experience a phobia of flying.
If you'll do almost anything to avoid reaching cruising altitude, these tips can help.
Flying is known as the safest form of long-distance travel – and dying from a plane accident is extremely rare. So why do our brains hang on to the very extraordinary instances when something goes wrong?
It comes down to confirmation bias, which makes us look for evidence that supports our existing beliefs.
It takes time and practice to break through the fear. Don't be too hard on yourself if trying to reason with your fear doesn't get you very far at first.
Exposure therapy is the idea that being exposed to something you're afraid of over and over again calms down your limbic system so it doesn't fire up as fast. That could mean less anxiety in the long run.
Before you move to the next level of exposure, make sure your fight-or-flight response is less active.
It could look something like this:
When we're really, really anxious, we can't think straight.
The key is to try to connect to your rational, thinking brain. When we really focus on thinking, like doing a math problem, our emotional brain calms down.
Try a crossword puzzle or sudoku, reading a really juicy romance novel (we've got recs!) or getting through a pile of paperwork. Board your flight with plenty of distractions.
During a rough flight, your instinct might be to take slow, deep breaths to calm down. But don't try to stop the experience.
Instead, try labelling your feelings. Remind yourself that your body is having a normal response to a perceived threat.
Of course, that's different from feeding your anxiety by telling yourself, "Oh, my God, the plane is going to crash. Oh, my God, something bad is going to happen!"
After you've named your fear, go back to the facts you gathered about aviation safety, and remind yourself that you're still safe.
Fast-acting medications like Xanax or Valium can be useful tools. But take them as short-term anxiety killers, and do not rely on them for the long-term.
Whatever you do, don't self-medicate or mix prescription pills with alcohol.
If you're totally comfortable, you're at home never facing your fear. If you're totally uncomfortable, it feels like you're always on the verge of a panic attack.
Finding a middle ground means: You're out of your comfort zone, but you're going toward something that matters, instead of just having anxiety, you are capitalizing on that anxiety to propel you toward something that matters.
Think about what matters to you: Maybe you love to explore new places, or really want to meet someone.
Figure out what's worth working through your fear.
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