One of the most common phobias out there is the fear of flying. After all, most of us are not well-adjusted to being some 30,000 feet in the air. Although we can try to avoid the need to soar through the sky to reach most of our destinations (even driving a day or so is an alternative for some U.S-based locations), it’s common to run out of excuses when it’s time to plan your honeymoon. Many of the most popular honeymoon destinations of 2020 call for a flight spanning upwards of 10 hours, which is enough to scare the daylights out of some soon-to-be brides and grooms. Luckily, there are many solutions for how to overcome your fear of flying in time for your honeymoon.
Here, we asked psychologists who specialize in how to overcome your fear of flying for their best-kept recommendations.
Dig deep into the reasons for your fear.
Kristin Kunkle, Psy.D, Clinical Psychologist at the Washington Anxiety Center of Capitol Hill in D.C., suggests asking yourself what it is that you fear exactly and gathering evidence to support or disprove it’s reality. “Fear is an important emotion because it keeps us safe, but only when the evidence shows that danger is likely to happen,” she says. First, she recommends asking yourself what it is that you are afraid of happening, such as a plane crash, and then educating yourself on the evidence of how likely it is to actually happen. “For example, statistics show that we are far more likely to die in a car accident than a plane accident, yet most people still take the risk of riding in a car every day,” she adds.
Create a plan for facing your fear.
If you’ve come to the conclusion that there is sufficient reason for you to overcome your fear of flying, Dr. Kunkle suggests creating a list of feared tasks from easiest to hardest next. “If watching a video about flying or mentally visualizing yourself on a plane is somewhat challenging, that could be a good place to start,” she says. “Also include actual flights on your list and identify which types of flights are easier and which are harder.”
Expose yourself to flying.
Ahead of your honeymoon, consider taking a flight somewhere. It doesn’t have to be a far distance, but just an experience that involves getting into an airplane, having that plane take off, spend some time in the air and land. “Avoidance prevents you from learning that your fears are not actually as dangerous as you think, so the remedy to this is to face your fears directly,” she says. This is known as exposure therapy—it allows your body the chance to experience the motions of your fear. “Begin completing the tasks on your list, keeping in mind that the more practice you get, the easier it will get over time,” Dr. Kunkle adds. “Exposure will take repetition, so when you get to the point of actually going on a flight, try to take multiple flights around that time if possible.”
Learn and practice relaxation skills before and during flying.
Emily Guarnotta, licensed clinical psychologist and blogger at The Mindful Mommy recommends utilizing the skill of mindfulness to help yourself relax during a time of high anxiety. “You can practice mindfulness before you fly by taking a few minutes to focus on your breathing,” she says. “Every time that you have a negative thought about flying, just imagine that thought as a cloud and gradually let the cloud pass through the sky.” It’s quite common for these negative thoughts to continue to pop up, if they do she suggests continuing to practice that same train of thought.
Accept that anxiety will be a part of the process.
You can’t expect to totally overcome your fear of flying. It is, after all, a fear. Chances are very high that you will still be anxious upon leaving for your honeymoon—potentially the entire way until you arrive at your destination, and perhaps once again when you head home. The best approach for managing this fear is to "ride the wave" of emotion, according to Dr. Kunkle. “Keep in mind that your body's fear response is temporary and cannot hurt you,” she says. “The more practice you get with flying, the less anxious you will feel over time.”
Follow your values.
“Make your decisions based on what you value, not what will make you less anxious,” says Dr. Kunkle. “If you value adventure and travel with the person you love, keeping this in mind will make the trip worthwhile, even if you do experience some anxiety on the flight.” The bottom line, she says is to put yourself in the driver's seat of your life—not your anxiety!