Facing Fear: A How-To Guide

At the end of this week, I’m getting on a plane home to Chicago for the holidays. I love going home – I am constantly missing my sisters, parents, friends, and old familiar suburban sights – but I hate getting there.



Having a fear of flying is pretty common. 20 - 30% of people get nervous about flying (which is somehow not as comforting as I wish it was). Further, 6.5% are so afraid of flying that they are entirely unable to get on a plane, and their fear can be classified as a genuine phobia.

I feel fortunate that I don’t have a true phobia of flying, though I do get very, very anxious about it. If you’re dealing with a true phobia of anything, I’d recommend finding a therapist who specializes in dealing with phobias, anxiety, and/or panic attacks. For readers who are not quite phobic but still driven totally nuts by situational anxiety, check out these tips for managing it:

Don’t be embarrassed.

Sometimes we have fears that are “normal,” like fears of flying or germs. And other times, we might have fears that don’t feel as normal. Someone close to me has a fear of vomiting, which is actuallypretty common, but lots of people have no idea it exists. Whether you think your fear is “normal” or not, don’t make the mistake of being too ashamed to tell anyone. Keeping all that anxiety bottled up secretly will only make you feel worse. Support from family and friends might not be your cure, but it’ll sure be helpful. Also – there are 7 billion people in the world. I promise, you aren’t the only one with this fear.

Educate yourself with facts.

Compare and contrast your fears with the facts. Googling facts about flying has actually been so helpful. I learned all about how many planes take off in a day vs. how many of them get into accidents. I learned what turbulence was and why it isn’t as scary as it feels. I learned that you are more likely to die being stung by a bee than you are in an aviation accident! Reading up on facts and noticing how they didn’t at all correlate with my fears really helped ease my anxiety.

Focus on the big picture.

We’ve got one life to live! If you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing you’re interested in living your life to your fullest potential and becoming your best you. Fears hold us back from our full potential. It helps me to think about how sad I’d be if I didn’t get to do things that are important to me, like see my family or visit new parts of the world, just because I’m afraid. We all deserve better than limiting our potential because of our fears.

Make yourself comfortable.

When you finally decide to take the plunge and face that fear that makes your insides twist, find a way to make it as painless as possible. While you are confronting the fear (or preparing for it), listen to music you like. Treat yourself to a good meal. Call your best friend and get some support. For me, I learned that flying is much less scary if I distract myself with watching TV shows, so I always make sure to bring my fully charged computer loaded with videos onto the plane.

Maybe still get therapy.

Phobias, fears, and anxieties often don’t have a simple explanation. Sure, I’m afraid of flying. But why? What about it is so terrifying to me? Going to therapy can help you ask yourself deeper questions about the roots of your fears. Therapists often use cognitive-behavioral therapy with fearful clients. This helps the client begin to notice the irrational thoughts associated with her fears and replace them with more realistic ones. Treatment for fears and phobias might also include exposure therapy, which is the gradual exposure to a client’s fear while in a safe space moderated by a mental health professional. This could include things like watching videos of your fear, reading about your fear, or even slowly engaging with it yourself. Sounds super scary, I know, but if you find a therapist that you trust and are comfortable with, you can totally conquer this fear.

Do you have fears? How do you deal with them? Comment below!