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There are seldom quick fixes for any kind of phobia, but on World Mental Health Day on 10 October, Luane Lavery, brand communication manager for kulula.com and British Airways suggests a few ways to deal with aerophobia:
Know the limits of logic: it’s worth acknowledging that commercial air travel is very safe. Statistically it’s far safer than, for example, travelling on the roads. So accepting that fear feels real even though it’s not rational can be a first step toward overcoming it;
Find a goal: before you board your flight, focus on something that you’re looking forward to experiencing when you land. Perhaps it’s seeing loved ones or having a meal at a favourite restaurant. It’s a way to focus on surviving the flight and enjoying what’s beyond it;
Speak up: the flight attendants are there for your safety and comfort, so don’t feel self-conscious about telling them you’re nervous;
Know what ignites your fear: recognize what triggers anxiety, whether it’s noise of the aircraft engines starting to rev, or the aircraft doors closing;
Treat yourself: a new book, a playlist of favourite songs, or a TV series to binge-watch on your device. It will help entertain and distract you from the flight;
Trust the technology: modern airliners are so overdesigned that the very worst turbulence won’t damage them. As long as you follow the safety procedures and keep yourself strapped in when the seatbelt light is on you’ll be safe and sound.
Experiment: some nervous fliers find that distracting themselves by writing with their non-dominant hand, or squeezing a stress-ball, or holding worry-beads.
Chat to a pro: a professional can help you find ways to deal with your fear. See the South African Depression and Anxiety Group at www.sadag.org