Fear of Flying

Fear of Flying Course

Fear of Flying: The Definitive Help Guide

Are you on the hunt for a fear of flying course that’s free and gets results?

If so, you’ve come to the right place 🙂


Because today, I’m going to give you ridiculously detailed step-by-step instructions on how to overcome your phobia.

Even better, the framework I’ve created for you is based directly on what helped me overcoming my own fear of flying.

But why do you need a framework?

Because beating your fear of flying is a process (rather than a one-off event).

And if you follow that process, your chances of getting results are improved.


Now that you’ve got that, let’s get into the detail of how to beat your fear of flying…

About me

Hi – I’m Tim Benjamin, the guy behind the Fear of Flying School. How do I understand the pain flying causes you?

Because I used to be in your shoes. In fact, following a series of horrible in-flight panic attacks, I quit flying for years.

I simply couldn’t step foot on a plane.

That was until I learnt – then mastered – the skills needed to become a fearless flier.

Since then, I’ve happily flown hundreds of times all over the world.

And if a naturally anxious person like me can succeed, you can, too.

Important Stuff

Before we dig into the details, there are a few things I’d like you to bear in mind.

For a start, I don’t have any formal qualifications in the field of anxiety management.

In other words, I’m not a psychologist, doctor or other kind of healthcare professional.

Nor do I have any formal qualifications related to aviation.

To hear directly from healthcare and aviation professionals, I suggest you check out my Interviews with Experts.

Meanwhile, I can’t promise you that any of the techniques I used to overcome my own fear of flying will help you overcome yours.

In fact, if you spot anyone who guarantees to solve your fear of flying problem, I suggest you run in the opposite direction.


Heck, even doctors don’t guarantee they’ll make you well again.

Finally, there’s one more thing you should know: I prefer techniques that randomized controlled trials have shown to work best.

So with those points out of the way, let’s dive in.

Defining success

What does ‘success’ look like when you’re trying to overcome a fear of flying?

In other words, what results can you realistically expect to achieve?

Luckily, that’s up to you.

For some people ‘success’ is simply being able to fly around the world on big commercial jets again – even if it involves a spot of anxiety here and there.

For others, the dream is to be able to fly anywhere, anytime – and on anything – without worrying in the slightest.

Whatever your goal, your level of success will be tied directly to the amount of effort you put in.

My own experience is that if you’re SERIOUS about getting results, you can make big gains relatively quickly.

For example, let’s say you allocated 20 minutes per day to following a structured fear of flying program.

And you did that for eight weeks.

Let’s also assume that during that time you took four return flights.

In that scenario, it’s quite possible – although not certain – that the intensity of your anxieties and fears could fall by 10% – 20%. Maybe more.

You might not think that’s much.stress

But even a 10% reduction in your stress levels would be a noticeable improvement.

Luckily, the good news doesn’t stop there.

Because if, in the following eight weeks, you continued to follow the same structured program – and flew four more times – you could reasonably hope for a further 10% – 20% improvement (again, no guarantees).

If you achieved these results, that would mean a 20% – 40% reduction in your anxiety levels in just 16 weeks.

That’s HUGE.

Total Calm?

But can you eliminate your anxiety and fear completely?

My view is that the answer will vary from person to person.

I’ve made massive improvements over 15 years (I’ve gone from not flying at all to flying every few weeks).

But occasionally I still experience a hint of anxiety or fear – especially when I’m tired.

But the number of anxious and fearful episodes I have now is a fraction of what I had previously.

Even better, the intensity of those episodes is down DRAMATICALLY.

The result?

For me, flying is no longer a big deal.

But does it matter if you never eliminate ALL anxiety and fear?

That’s up to you to decide.

For me, the goal has always been to reduce anxiety and fear to the point where they no longer undermine my quality of life.

Or stop me getting on a plane. That’s been achieved – so I’m happy.

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Chapter 2

Fear of Flying Explained

What do we mean when we talk about a ‘fear of flying’?

It turns out that a ‘fear of flying’ is a broad term that covers a wide range of anxieties and fears.

Each of them are what psychologists call ‘phobias’.

What’s a phobia?

According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s an ‘unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance’.

So what are the most common phobias amongst people who hate flying?

  • Having a panic attack.
  • Nausea.
  • Being stuck in confined spaces (like an aircraft cabin) from which there is no escape.
  • Not being able to visit the bathroom whenever you wish (e.g. when the seatbelt sign is on).
  • Heights.
  • Travelling a long way from loved ones.
  • Terrorism.
  • Flying at night.
  • Crowds.
  • Mechanical failure.
  • Making a fool of yourself in public (e.g. when having a panic attack).
  • Loss of control (i.e. handing control to others (e.g. pilots)).
  • Flying over water.
  • Acting in a crazy way(e.g. running wildly around the cabin).


When you have a phobia, you typically have CATASTROPHIC thoughts about the thing that worries you.

These thoughts cause (1) anxiety and (2) fear.

What’s the difference between ‘anxiety’ and ‘fear’?

Let’s take them one by one.

‘Anxiety’ is what you feel when worrying about something BEFORE you’re actually exposed to that thing.

That’s why it’s often called ‘anticipatory anxiety’.

For example, if you’re worrying about turbulence on an upcoming flight, you’re experiencing anticipatory anxiety.

In contrast, ‘fear’ is what you feel when you’re actually experiencing the thing that scares you.

For example, it’s how you feel when you’re ACTUALLY flying through turbulence.

This distinction between ‘anticipatory anxiety’ and ‘fear’ is important.


Because if you have a fear of flying, anticipatory anxiety is often a bigger problem than fear.

The reason?

Anticipatory anxiety is obviously the thing that makes you worry about the next flight.

Or avoid it altogether.

And as you know, it can dominate your mind for months – even years.


So what’s going on when you feel anticipatory anxiety?

Typically, your mind keeps asking ‘what if?’ questions.

For example, ‘What if I have a panic attack on the plane?’

Or ‘What if we hit turbulence?’.

Inevitably, the answer to a ‘what if?’ question is something catastrophic.

For example, when you ask yourself ‘what if the plane hits turbulence?’, the answer supplied by your brain will be something like ‘I’ll probably have a massive panic attack’.

Or ‘My plane could break up’.

It’s never something boring (and more realistic) like ‘If the plane hits turbulence my full cup of coffee might spill. A bit’.

In other words, ‘what if?’ thoughts really screw with your head.

Not only do they make your flights horrible, they also harm your day-to-day life.

For example, ‘what if?’ thoughts can bring on unwanted physical symptoms like these:

  • Feeling on-edge.
  • Butterflies in the stomach.
  • Tense muscles.
  • An increased heart rate.
  • Shallower breathing.
  • Chest pains.

Just as annoying, ‘what if?’ thoughts can provoke MORE negative thoughts.

For example:

  • Anger at yourself for having ‘what if?’ thoughts in the first place.
  • Frustration.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Sadness.

Needless to say, these thoughts can leave you emotionally drained. And they aggravate the physical symptoms of stress I mentioned before.

In other words, this stuff can SERIOUSLY undermine your quality of life.

Even when you’re nowhere near a plane.

A larger problem is that many of us try to eliminate anticipatory anxiety by steering clear of its underlying cause.

In other words, we try to AVOID flying. Or at least minimize it.

Not surprisingly, this is called ‘avoidance.’ And it’s the big mistake I made.


It replaces your anticipatory anxiety with two new – and even bigger – problems.

Annoyingly, these two problems are more troublesome than the one you’re trying to solve by avoiding air travel.

The first big problem is obvious: you don’t get to travel as much as you’d like.

If at all.

Meanwhile, the second problem typically caused by avoidance is this: the more you avoid flying, the SCARIER it can seem.

I know that sounds weird. So let me explain.

The more time you spend on planes, the more routine the whole experience is likely to feel (provided you approach it in the way I explain in Chapter 9.

In contrast, the less time you spend on planes, the LESS routine it’s likely to feel.

And the less routine it feels, the greater the chance your brain will see flying as abnormal.

Of course, when your brain regards flying as abnormal, it’s likely to see the cabin of an aircraft as a place you don’t belong.

And when it thinks that way, hauling your butt onto a plane is hard.


How does your fear of flying affect your use of air transport? Inevitably, it puts you into one of three groups:

Group 1
You suck up the anxiety and fly as needed.
Group 2
You suck up the anxiety and fly – but only when absolutely necessary.
Group 3
You quit flying altogether.

Needless to say, these are all horrible options.

What’s more, you may find yourself ‘advancing’ through these groups.

For example, when my own fear of flying started, I was in group 1.

Then I slipped to group 2.

Not long after that, I collapsed into the dreaded group 3.


When to tackle fear of flying

So when is the best time to do something about your fear of flying?

I say now.

That’s why, today, I’m giving you step-by-step instructions that will help you get your phobia under control.


Let’s do this…

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Chapter 3

Mental Attitude

The level of success you have when tackling your fear of flying will largely be decided by your mindset.

That’s why it’s the first thing to nail.

But what mindset do you need to succeed?

For a start, you need to accept that you CAN achieve results.

This can be hard to believe when your own experience is of ever- increasing anxiety about flying.

But take it from me – you will succeed if you allow yourself the POSSIBILITY of success.

Critically, the right mental attitude will also keep you moving forwards.

And that’s vital.

Because overcoming your fear of flying will sometimes be hard.

Especially when you have to take flights you’d rather avoid. It’s at those difficult moments you’ll need a store of self-belief to keep moving towards your goal.

To quote Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can – or think you can’t – you’re right.”

Convinced you’ve got what it takes?


Now What?

For a start, I suggest you think of this process as a GAME.

Why a game?

Because that defines it as an interesting personal journey – rather than a terrifying chore.

By making that mental shift, you’ll find it easier to apply the same energy and enthusiasm that you would to learning something fun.

Like an instrument, a sport or a language.

Set realistic expectations

To avoid becoming disheartened by the speed of progress, it’s useful to have a realistic idea about what kind of results you can achieve.

And how long it will take.

On that note, I can tell you that progress will be slower than you would like.

After all, we’d all like to become 100% fear-free instantly, right?

Well, unfortunately, that ain’t gonna happen.

The truth is that your phobia probably developed over time. And therefore, it’ll take you time to roll it back.

In fact, it’s possible you’ll never FULLY eliminate it. But if that thought makes you depressed, don’t be.


Because the good news is this: if you tackle your phobia energetically, it’s possible you’ll make your biggest gains towards the START of the process.

For example, it’s possible that by following a structured program, you could reduce the intensity of your anxiety by, say, 20% in 8 weeks.

And while 20% may not sound like much on paper, you’d notice a big improvement ahead of – and during – your next flight.

Even better, it’s possible that over the following 8 weeks, you could improve another 20%. That’s a 40% reduction in the intensity of your anxiety in just 4 months.


Reaching your goal may take time

Although you might make big gains quickly, you may find that achieving further reductions in your anxiety level takes longer.

In other words, you might achieve the first 50% of improvement faster than the second 50%. That was my experience.

In that sense, overcoming a fear of flying is a bit like other endeavours.

For example, imagine you chose to learn tennis for the first time.

If you had a couple of lessons a week, you could advance from absolute beginner to holding down a basic game in a few months.

But moving from there to becoming a pro would take years of intense daily training.

And so it may to be as you tackle your fear of flying. Then again, you might achieve bigger results, faster.

Either way, by taking action, you’re likely to be MILES ahead of where you are now.

Other features of the right mindset

To see results quickly – and to maintain momentum – I suggest you keep these tips in mind:

Dont get angry with yoursellf

It’s easy to be annoyed with yourself for having a fear of flying. Especially if – like me – you regard yourself as competent in other areas of life.

Self-directed anger can also arise when you feel progress is too slow.

This anger is pointless. And self-defeating.

A healthier approach is to accept you have a phobia. Then pat yourself on the back for having the guts to do something about it.

Don't buy into media sensationalism

As a former news reporter, I can tell you the media loves a good plane crash.


Because the heightened drama of a plane accident will attract a bigger audience than more common accidents like those involving cars.

And a bigger audience means more advertising revenue.

That’s why you get wall-to-wall coverage of a flying incident in which no one is hurt.

But little coverage of the many people who die on our roads each day.

For example, in the US in 2011, 32,310 people were killed in traffic accidents (see Page 2 of this report from the State of New Jersey).

On average, that’s over 88 people each day. Despite the scale of this carnage, these accidents received little media attention. But they’re the equivalent of a 737 crashing every two days – with all aboard perishing.

You should also be aware that news organizations typically make events sound more dramatic than they really were.


Because it captures the audience’s attention more powerfully.

On that note, I recommend you resist the urge to consume any story about a plane incident or crash.

However, if you do see a scary news story, ask yourself these questions:

  • How many people were killed?
  • How many people were seriously injured?

Usually, you’ll discover the answer is none.

Or very few.

Don't buy into other people's horror stories

I’m sure you’ve had plenty of people tell you their flying horror stories. You know – the ones in which their plane nearly crashed in a storm.

Invariably, people exaggerate the details to make for a better story. So what sounds like a moment of high drama was probably something utterly mundane.

Even if the experience felt scary to the person telling the story.

On that note, you need to ignore these tales. And stay focused on the facts about flying.

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Chapter 4

Background Anxiety

The first step to overcoming your fear of flying is to reduce your ‘background anxiety’.

What’s ‘background anxiety’?

It’s the amount of anxiety you feel in your day-to-day life. In other words, the anxiety levels you live with 24/7.

In my experience, people with a fear of flying often have higher background anxiety levels than others.

As a result, we tend to react more fearfully to ALL stressful events.

An example

Imagine a door at home slams unexpectedly.

The person with a higher background anxiety level will tend to jump higher than everyone else.

Why does this matter to you?

By reducing your background anxiety levels, EVERYTHING you hate about flying is likely to seem less scary.

For example, take turbulence. The simple act of reducing your background anxiety levels will often leave you feeling less fearful when thinking about it.

And when actually experiencing it.

Your other flying-related concerns should be less troubling, too.

Meanwhile, if your main worry is about having an in-flight panic attack, it’s likely that a lower background anxiety level will REALLY help.

Finally, if you reduce you background anxiety, you’ll reap another massive bonus: greater calmness in the rest of your life.

How to become calmer

There are a number of techniques that have been shown to powerfully reduce background anxiety in large numbers of people.

Let’s take a look a look at ‘em.

Aerobic Excercise

Aerobic exercises are the ones that boost your heart rate.

Think jogging, swimming and cycling.

And research shows they’re an excellent way to get your background anxiety under control.

They also tend to lift your mood.

Another great thing about aerobic exercise is that you’ll probably start feeling the benefits almost instantly.

Within minutes of starting your first session, it’s likely you’ll feel:

  • Calmer.
  • More optimistic.
  • A greater sense of wellbeing.

And these feelings can stay with you for hours.

Even better, if you work out a few times each week, these good feelings can expand to FILL your day.

But how much aerobic exercise must you do to put a dent in your background anxiety?

That’s a hard one to answer as it probably varies from person to person.

But you could do worse than a 20-minute jog three times per week.

Or you might achieve similar results – but in less time – by doing ‘high intensity intermittent training’ (HIIT).

HIIT involves doing short bursts of intense activity.

For example, going as hard as you can for 15 seconds on a static bike. Then repeating 2 more times over a period of about 5 minutes.

Do that 3 times per week and you could soon notice a reduction in background anxiety.

All with just 15 minutes of effort per WEEK.

For more information about HITT, check out the work of Dr Michael Mosley.


As you know, there are loads of relaxation techniques to choose from.

However, I suggest you start by trying the one that worked for me.

Known as ‘progressive muscle relaxation’ (PMR), it has three main benefits:

  • It’s easy to do.
  • It can yield results fast.
  • It’s free.

How does it work?

PMR involves tensing – then relaxing – your muscles. And doing so in a systematic way that targets each of the main parts of your body in sequence.

At the end of the session, you’re left with a deep sense of tranquillity.

How long does a PMR session take? Different people will give you different answers.

But in an ideal world, you’d aim for at least one 20 minute session each day. Ideally seven days per week.

However, if you’re as lazy as me, you’ll struggle to re-shape your day to fit in 1 x 20 minute session consistently.

After all, you need to find a time when you won’t be disturbed.

And a quite place in which to do it. That has a comfy chair for you to sit.

As you face these barriers, remember that 20 minutes spent on PMR may well benefit you more than almost any other activity competing for that time.

Like hanging out on Facebook. Or staring at the telly.

But what if you simply can’t find 20 minutes a day?

Then go for 15 minutes.

Or 10 minutes.

Heck, even 5 minutes done consistently is likely to be miles better than nothing.

When to do your pmr

The best time of day for doing PMR will vary from person to person.

But besides choosing a time when you won’t be disturbed, you also want to make sure you’re not sleepy or hungry.


Falling asleep during PMR is easy. After all, it’s deeply relaxing.

But while dozing off is fine on occasion, you’ll get more out of the exercise if you’re awake throughout.

In my experience, trying to do PMR seconds after getting out of bed will usually result in me falling asleep again.

Therefore, if you’re going to do it first thing in the morning, maybe have a shower beforehand.

Or a cup of tea.

Anything that gives you time to wake up.

Likewise, I avoid doing PMR just before bedtime as I’ll inevitably nod off in minutes.

Obviously you’ll need to experiment to see what times work best for you.

In terms of hunger, I find it hard to do PMR if I’m starving. But I avoid eating a meal just before a PMR session.

That’s because a full stomach also sends me to sleep. The solution?

Kill your hunger pangs with a light snack. Like a banana with peanut butter. Or anything else that takes the edge off without filling you up.

How to get started

I suggest you start by accompanying your sessions with an audio recording of someone guiding you though the process. Once you’ve got the hang of things, you can stick with the recording. Or go it alone.

Where can you find recordings? There are free ones on YouTube and in the iTunes store. And you’ll find low-cost MP3 downloads on Amazon.

When should you start?

The answer is NOW. Because the sooner you’re doing PMR consistently, the quicker you’re likely to get comfortable flying.


Because although you’ll feel great after just one session, the sense of relaxation will wear off in an hour or so.

But if you consistently do a session each day, it’s likely you’ll find the calming effect will last a little longer each time.

And become a little more ingrained in your day-to-day life.

The bottom line

Simply becoming a calmer person will not, by itself, eliminate your fear of flying. But typically it makes the process of overcoming your fear less traumatic.

And it will allow you to achieve your goal faster.

Minimise caffeine consumption

I love drinking coffee – especially first thing in the morning.

Without that jolt, I can’t get moving.

But as you know, too much of it can leave you feeling on edge.

That’s why you should try reducing your daily intake.

After all, the less caffeine swishing around your body, the lower your background anxiety is likely to be.

What’s more, if you can avoid it in the afternoon and evening, you’re likely to enjoy better quality sleep – a key factor in helping you feel calmer.

And don’t forget that it’s not just coffee that contains a ton of caffeine.

Other offenders include energy drinks, colas – and chocolate.

Quit the fags

For lots of us, dealing with background anxiety involves reaching for a ciggy.

But there’s a small problem. It turns out that cigarettes (and e-cigs) make your anxiety WORSE.


In a nutshell, they BOOST your anxiety by inflicting nicotine cravings.

Next, they offer a ‘solution’ to your elevated anxiety in the form of a nicotine fix.

That works – until you start craving the next cigarette.

So, if you can escape this vicious cycle, you’ll enjoy a less anxious life.

To learn more about how nicotine affects your anxiety levels, watch the video on this page (scroll down the page to find it).

Another benefit of avoiding nicotine is that you’ll probably sleep better. That’s because nicotine is a stimulant.

And like all stimulants, it undermines the quality of your sleep.

So if you ditch cigarettes, you’ll typically wake up more rested.

And when you’re more rested, your background anxiety will often be lower.

Check out this research for more info.

Go easy on the booze

Having a drink is one of my favourite pastimes.

But if you’re not careful, it can boost your anxiety levels.

You see, while alcohol is supposed to relax you, it turns out that it can do the opposite. Especially when you drink lots of it.


There are several reasons.

For a start, drinking can affect your mood by reducing your brain’s supply of the feel-good chemical called serotonin.

In turn, lower serotonin levels can make you feel anxious and depressed.

But that’s not the only problem alcohol can cause you.

It can also make you feel more anxious by causing your blood sugar levels to drop.

And unusually low blood sugar can lead to symptoms like dizziness, confusion and nervousness.

Meanwhile, the dehydration caused by alcohol can be a further cause of anxiety.

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Chapter 5

Panic Attacks

I bet the thing you dread most about flying is having a panic attack.

But do you know the main cause of panic attacks? It’s the FEAR of having one.

In other words, the more you worry about having a panic attack, the more you’re likely to panic.


My series of articles on panic attack treatments gives you a step-by-step program to get them under control.

In the meantime, let’s take a quick look at what a panic attack is.

Put simply, when it strikes, you’re instantly gripped by fear. And a conviction that something dreadful is about to happen.

In a matter of seconds, you’re overwhelmed by symptoms that might include:

  • A sense of unreality.
  • Feeling ‘out of body.’
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Tunnel vision.
  • Sweating.
  • Hyper-awareness of sights and sounds around you.
  • Trembling.
  • Feeling you’re about to go crazy.
  • An urge to escape.
  • Feeling you’re about to lose control.
  • Dizziness.
  • A pounding heart.
  • Chest pains (which are often wrongly interpreted as a heart attack – panic attacks don’t cause heart attacks).

To make things worse, an attack often seems to come out of nowhere – an experience that’s frightening in itself.

The purpose of panic

To manage panic effectively, you need to start with an understanding of why our bodies allow panic attacks in the first place.

In essence, panic attacks are caused by a self-defence system called the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Many evolutionary biologists think the fight or flight response evolved when humans were first developing.

That was a time when we faced life-threatening situations daily.

Like hungry beasts wishing to gobble us for lunch.

So how did we originally benefit from fight or flight?

Here’s the deal: it removed the need for you to waste precious seconds thinking about how to respond to an immediate threat.

It did this by instantly triggering one of two responses: fight the threat or flee from it.

In other words, you didn’t need to think – you just acted.

The problem with this ancient system today is that it’s crap at telling the difference between threats that are real – and those that are imagined.

In that sense, it’s like a home smoke alarm that can’t tell the difference between burnt toast and a serious house fire.

That means your fight or flight response can be triggered by worrying THOUGHTS and FEELINGS – even when there is no REAL threat.

That’s how you end up feeling panicky on a plane.

So what can you do

As I mentioned earlier, a vital step in reducing the number and intensity of panic attacks is to worry about them less.

To learn how, check out the 9 reasons you shouldn’t fear panic attacks.

Next, you also need to learn how to manage a panic attack when it rears its ugly head.

Use breathing to control your panic

As you’ll see, the #1 technique for managing a panic attack relates to your breathing.


Because when you panic, your breathing goes haywire.

In particular, it becomes fast and shallow.

This is called ‘hyperventilating’.

And it results in your blood having too much oxygen yet too little carbon dioxide.

In turn, that imbalance causes some of the worst symptoms of a panic attack.

For example, dizziness, vertigo and that awful out-of-body feeling.

The only ‘good’ thing to say about hyperventilating is that it’s not actually dangerous.

So what’s the trick to stopping it?

The big idea is to force yourself to breathe normally.

But how?

By deliberately slowing your breathing down.

How to breathe slower

Before you learn how to breathe slower during a panic attack, you should check how fast you breathe normally.


Because without knowing it, you might be hyperventilating 24/7.

And if you are, it’s likely you’ll have an elevated level of background anxiety.

Which means you’re more likely to have panic attacks in the first place.

So, how do you find out whether you hyperventilate in your day-to- day life?


Simply count how many breaths you take in one minute.

If you’re doing more than 14, you’re breathing too much.

The ideal is about 10.

If you are breathing too fast, it’s likely you’re sucking in air using the top part of your chest.

That’s the WRONG way to do it.

To slow things down, you should instead breathe using your abdomen. That’s the area around your stomach.

But how?

For a start, find somewhere to sit.

Next, place your hands flat on your stomach about 2cm (1 inch) above your belly button.

You want the tips of the middle finger on each hand to touch each other when you breathe out.

But not to touch when you breathe in.

You should try to breathe in for 3 seconds.

Then out for 3 seconds.

That will give you about 10 breaths per minute.

Ideally, you want to practice this abdominal breathing several times each day.

And for a few minutes each time.

Keep practicing until your default breathing speed is about 10 breaths per minute when resting.

Slow breathing during a panic attack

How do you use the slow breathing technique on a plane?

Simply slow your breathing down so that you’re using your abdomen to breathe in for 3 seconds.

And out for 3 seconds.

That’ll quickly ease the intensity of your panic.

And give you a nice sense of control.

Download a free PDF version of this guide

Download a free PDF version of this fear of flying guide...

Yes! Give me my PDF PDF version contains all the content and resources found in the web-based guide.
Chapter 6

Catastrophic Thoughts

The trick to overcoming your fear of flying is to reduce the number and intensity of catastrophic thoughts you have about air travel.

After all, THEY are what make you scared.

But as I’m sure you know, merely telling yourself not to think negatively ain’t gonna work.

Catastrophic thoughts WILL still creep in.

So, what’s the answer?

It’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

CBT Explained

According to clinical research, CBT is the most effective anxiety treatment around.

At its heart is a simple theory: it’s not events that upset you, but the meaning you give to those events.

Let me demonstrate with an example.

Imagine you’ve had a miserable day at the office.

To cheer yourself up, you go shopping.

While strolling around the shops, you spot a friend you haven’t seen for ages.

But she walks right past without acknowledging you.

This leads to a chain of negative events.

To start with, you think she ignored you because she doesn’t like you.

This makes you feel sad which causes physical sensations including stomach cramps and low energy.

In response, you give up on shopping and head home.

Another way of interpreting the same thing

But if you view this encounter differently, you’ll have a different emotional and physical response.

For example, imagine that as your friend walks past, the only thought you have is that she appears to be preoccupied.

This causes you to worry about her welfare.

But it doesn’t cause you to have any physical response.

In fact the only thing that happens is you drop her an email to check she’s OK.

Cbt and your fear of flying

How does CBT apply to your problem with planes?

In particular, how can it help your brain re-interpret situations that currently scare you?

Put simply, you can harness CBT to change how you THINK about the stuff that makes you fearful.


By asking these questions each time you have a NEGATIVE thought:

  • What evidence do I have for my thought?
  • What evidence do I have against my thought?
  • Is there another way to think about this situation?
  • Is the way I’m thinking helpful?
  • What would I say to a friend who thought this way?

If you do this RELIGIOUSLY, your negative thoughts are likely to weaken as your brain switches focus to how things ACTUALLY are.

In other words, your catastrophic thoughts should gradually be replaced by accurate (and less scary) thoughts.

And that should leave you feeling less anxious.

As you can imagine, this is a more effective technique than trying to get rid of your anxieties by merely ‘thinking positive’.

The power of facts

To challenge a catastrophic thought using CBT, you obviously need to arm yourself with facts about flying.

Especially facts related to the stuff that freaks you out.

For details on how, check out Chapter 7.

Cbt V Psychoanalysis

The elegantly simple approach of CBT is in contrast to an older therapy you might know of called ‘psychoanalysis.’

Less popular now than in the past, psychoanalysis was created by people like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

They believed you could reduce your anxiety levels by spending large amounts of time (and money) talking with a therapist about things that happened in your past.

Like your childhood.

The idea was that after much talking to a therapist (often over a period of years), you’d have new insights about yourself.

You’d then use these insights to tackle your anxieties.

But as I mentioned earlier, clinical trials suggest this approach is less effective than CBT in the treatment of phobias.

It takes time

When learning how to challenge your negative thoughts, you need patience.

That’s because it’ll take longer to overcome them than you’d like.

So, just stick with the program – and embrace the fact that you’ll feel some anxiety along the way.

The magic question technique

As you know, anxiety kicks in when your worry about something bad happening in the FUTURE.

By asking the Magic Question, you can get your brain to stop worrying about the future by focusing on the PRESENT.


When you have a catastrophic thought, simply ask yourself whether you’re safe RIGHT NOW.

If the answer is ‘yes – I’m safe,’ allow yourself to quit worrying.

If your anxiety bubbles up again, simply rinse and repeat.

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Chapter 7

Learn About Flying

If you have zero knowledge of how planes get from A to B, listen up.

Your limited understanding of the mechanical and operational aspects of flying can cause you serious grief.


Because in the absence of knowledge, it’s easy for your brain to see flying as having a ‘wing and a prayer’ quality.

And that’s the perfect breeding ground for catastrophic thoughts.learn-about-flying

For example, are you concerned that turbulence might send you plummeting?

Or that the wings might snap off?

If so, you must learn how to fight off these negative – and irrational – thoughts.

But how?

My secret weapon

In my experience, you must first arm yourself with FACTS about how planes work.

And how they’re flown.

In particular, you need to get your head around the workings of the stuff that worries you.

For example, if you’re freaked out by takeoff, you need to learn how it works.

But learning the facts isn’t enough.

You also need to REMEMBER them.

That way, you can use them to challenge catastrophic thoughts.

Why is that skill vital?

Because catastrophic thoughts WILL seep into your mind from time to time.

And when they do, you want to be ready to deck them.

Fact-finding may sound like a ton of effort.

But playing this mind game is key if you’re to get over your fear of flying.

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Chapter 8

Take Baby Steps

To get over your phobia, you’ll eventually have to get on a flight.

Then feel – and face down – your fears.

For most people, this is grim news.

After all, they’d rather be cured without having to step foot on a plane.

But sadly, that option doesn’t exist.


Because the only way to stop fearing something is to spend LOTS of time in its presence.

By doing that – then witnessing that nothing bad happens to you – your fearfulness will gradually fade.

That said, hanging out with something you dread is obviously no walk in the park.

An easier way

But luckily, there’s a way to build up to it that will make things less painful.

It’s a process drawn from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy called ‘progressive exposure.’

And it’s MUCH less difficult. So how does it work?

Put simply, it involves breaking your exposure process down into bite-sized chunks.

You then tackle these chunks – one at a time – starting with the thing that causes you the LEAST amount of fear.

For example, imagine you had a fear of heights.

And your goal was to happily spend time on the top floor of a skyscraper.

Now, if you tried to get there on your first day of therapy, you’d probably be too terrified to do so.

Or if you did, the experience would be so painful you’d be unlikely to try again.

The end result?

A failure to overcome your phobia.

In contrast, it’d be easier if each day you made small – but effective – steps towards your goal.

For example, on the first day, you might only visit the ground floor (first floor to my American friends) of the skyscraper.

And stay there until your fear went away.

You’d rinse and repeat on following days until you had little or no fear when first entering the ground floor.

With the ground floor conquered, you’d do the same thing on higher and higher floors until you reached the top. But how does this work with flying?

After all, you can’t partially experience it.

Once those cabin doors close, you’re obviously committed to the whole ride.

So what’s the trick?

It’s called ‘imaginal exposure.’

And in a nutshell, it involves sitting quietly in a safe place (e.g. at home) and IMAGINING yourself in a situation that makes you fearful.

For example, if you normally get the jitters when boarding an aircraft, you would imagine yourself doing just that.

With as much detail as possible.

As you started feeling anxious, you’d challenge your negative thoughts with facts.

And by managing your breathing.

How to start

When using imaginal exposure, you should start at the point in a journey where you first feel seriously anxious.

For example, if your nerves normally kick in when travelling to the airport, you’d use imaginal exposure to target that first.

Once you could imagine travelling to the airport without feeling overly anxious, you’d then repeat the exercise – but switch your attention to the next stage of your journey (e.g. checking-in at the airport).

When doing these exercises, bear in mind that it might take you a few sessions to get comfortable with a given situation.

Eventually, you want to be able to imagine an entire flight without feeling excessive nerves.

Other forms of ground based exposure

Besides imaginal exposure, you can also expose yourself to bits of the flying experience without getting airborne.

For example, let’s assume you feel claustrophobic in a plane.

In that scenario, you could start your treatment by hanging out in other enclosed spaces.

Like trains, buses or elevators.

Obviously you’d start by taking the shortest possible journeys.

And at times when there were few passengers.

As your confidence improved, you’d make the trips longer.

And then try travelling at busier times of the day.

Once you were happy to travel long distances at peak hour, you’d be MUCH more comfortable stepping inside a plane.

By that point, you’d also be well versed in using your calming techniques to handle negative thoughts.

Airport time

If you tend to feel anxious when arriving at the airport to catch a flight, here’s another exposure technique you can try.

Simply hang out at your local airport without actually flying anywhere.

Then stay until you feel totally comfortable there.

Rinse and repeat a few times until it becomes so dull you can’t stand it any more.

Flight based exposure

Once you’re ready to test your anxiety-fighting skills on an actual flight, I suggest you start with the flight that’s going to cause you the LEAST amount of worry.

Typically, that means starting with something SHORT.

For example, if you haven’t been able to fly at all (my original situation), take a return flight to a nearby city.

Or if you’re happy flying during the day but dread night flights, do the same short flight. But at night.

Or catch a flight that takes off during daylight then lands after dark.

Then, as you achieve a given objective, try something a bit harder on your next flight.

Like taking one that’s longer. Or by sitting in a seat you’ve traditionally avoided.

When planning your flights, I suggest you avoid propeller-driven aircraft as they’re smaller, noisier and bumpier than jets.

Instead, go for something like a Boeing 737 or Airbus A319/A320.

Bigger jets are great, too.

Another tip is to sit towards the front.

That’s because it’s quieter, less bumpy and feels more spacious (because you don’t have a sea of people in front of you).

How to get the best results

To REALLY make an impact, you need to fly as often as possible.

This will allow you to take the confidence built up in one flight then quickly apply it to the next.

In contrast, if you don’t fly often, you’ll NEVER move beyond first base.

That’s because the positive feelings and thoughts from each flight will be forgotten before you take the next one.

The result?

Each flight will feel as scary as the last. So how often is best?

Well, as with everything else in life, practice makes perfect. Therefore, in an ideal world, you’d fly every day.

But more realistically, if you could start by flying every second weekend for 6-8 weeks (i.e. 3-4 round trips), you’d enhance your chances of making progress.

Even one round-trip every month would be great.

I know this number of flights in a short period of time sounds frightening. And that it’s a logistical and financial nightmare.

But there’s a way to sweeten the pill: turn your flying days into mini-adventures.

In other words, use your short flights as an opportunity to check out new cities.

For example, you could catch an early morning flight somewhere.

Then spend the day hanging out there before flying home late in the afternoon or evening.

The next trip, you rinse and repeat – but to a different destination.

Obviously most of us will find it impractical to keep flying this often on an indefinite basis.

But to lock in the benefits of this initial bout of flights, it’s ESSENTIAL that you keep flying as much as possible.

Be patient

Progressive exposure will take longer to achieve results than you would like.

The key to success is staying motivated.

And not getting angry with yourself when progress seems slow or non-existent.

In that situation, pat yourself on the back for having the guts to tackle your fear.

Then get back to work.

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Chapter 9

The Focused Flying Technique

Much as you HATE flying, getting your butt on a plane is a MUST if you’re to beat your phobia.

That’s because exposure is an essential part of overcoming your fear.

But to get results, I recommend you use a special technique.

I call it the ‘Focused Flying Technique.’

What is it?

It involves taking each of the things you’ve learnt about flying – then deliberately observing them in operation during your flight.

For example, if you’re freaked out by all the ‘weird’ sounds that planes make, you find out what they are in advance.

Then you DELIBERATLY listen out for them throughout your next flight.

That way, they no longer come as a surprise.

Even better, they’ll act as proof that your plane is working normally.

Another benefit of the Focused Flying Technique is that it forces your mind to observe what’s happening AROUND you.

That’s in contrast to what usually happens when you’re feeling anxious (i.e. a tendency to fixate on your internal – and anxious – feelings).

In turn, this will help convince your brain that the whole process of flying is utterly routine.

And when that happens, you’ll start feeling more comfortable with it.

Minimise distractions

Obviously the more you can focus on the workings of the flight, the better.

That means keeping distractions at bay.

On that note, even when travelling with family and friends, I’ll take time out from them to get my mind focused on the upcoming flight.

For example, in the departure lounge, I’ll stand by the window and watch one of the pilots doing the walk-around (they do this before EVERY flight you take).

Sometimes, I’ll even sit in a separate area of the plane.

Avoiding the distractions of friends and family can also free you up to monitor and manage your breathing.

And your anxiety levels.

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