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You Are Not Alone

“Long before September 11, flying had turned into a test of nerves for me. I pictured crashing, or somehow the door blows open, or the plane plunges from the clouds like a sky diver without a parachute,” revealed Satish Sharma, a 35-year old business development executive and frequent flyer. And the September terrorist hijackings have certainly not eased matters. Whenever he had to fly somewhere, he would break into a cold sweat. The day before his flight would be full of anxiety and very often he suffered sleepless nights at the thought of boarding a plane. This man suffers from the fear of flying.

Do you have a fear of flying too? If so, join the crowd. You are not alone. One in three Americans feels some anxiety about flying or has an outright phobia, according to research from Boeing. In fact, there are many medical associations and societies all over the world dedicated to overcoming this fear. In some western countries, the authorities even organise classes to help people deal with this problem.

Fear of flying is a modern phenomenon, naturally. And to tell you the truth, recent disastrous events have given rise to fear among more people all over the world. Describing his phobia Satish divulges, “My heart starts beating fast... I feel like I am going to explode whenever I am faced with the thought of going on another business tour. My throat becomes dry and I feel like I am going to choke. It is so embarrassing to even shake hands with anyone at the airport because my palms are perpetually wet with sweat.”

Fear of flying is, indeed, becoming a common problem amongst a number of people. Flying by itself does not cause as much fear as the accompanying conditions. Many people suffer from claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces). Thus, the cramped interiors of a plane may be the undoing for such a person who eventually develops a fear of flying. Similarly fear of clouds, thunderstorms, heights, crowds, water, all these may manifest themselves in the fear of flying. I recommend that you take some time out and think about your fears and dislikes about flying. Once you have recognised the area, which causes most anxiety, you will be able to work upon it.

A quick and easy way to deal with anxiety prior to and while flying is practicing breathing techniques that will calm you. The heart starts beating rapidly when faced with a fearful situation and it is vital to get the heartbeats under control, which is possible by this breathing exercise:

1 Take a long, slow breath and hold it for three seconds.

2 Exhale slowly through pursed lips while you consciously relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders and stomach. Repeat this exercise for a few minutes.

Practice this exercise at least 10 times a day for a few weeks before your departure. This will help you to be familiar with the process. Do this breathing exercise whenever you feel an anxiety attack coming upon you. If you accept your fears as a natural reaction, you will be more successful in overcoming them. Also, remember that a little bit of anxiety is natural and present in every passenger.

Discomfort also aggravates the fear of flying. Here are some changes that you may make to increase comfort levels while flying so that you are automatically relaxed:

1 Start by reducing your caffeine and sugar intake on the day before and the day of your flight.

2 Drink lots of water even if you are not thirsty to avoid dehydration from the dry plane air.

3 Refrain from drinking alcohol before or during the flight.

4 Pack a bag of pastimes for the flight: a good book, crossword puzzles, your favourite music etc.

5 Get to the airport early, don’t rush yourself.

6 Consider mentioning to the crew and the hostesses that you sometimes get afraid on flights.

7 At your seat, get comfortable. Talk to your neighbour.

8 During take-off, wiggle your toes for those 30-50 seconds, and do the relaxation exercise mentioned above.

9 When the seat belt sign goes off, stand and stretch or take a walk.

ACONITE 200C is also useful remedy to overcome the fear of death and it should be taken three times a day till the symptoms subside. KALI PHOS 6x taken twice a day along with constitutional medicine (prescribed by a homeopath) is also an effective remedy for fear of flying.

Follow the above tips and you will see that travelling by air is just as easy as taking a stroll down your street. Reveals Satish two weeks later on a flight to Chicago, “That an Airbus A300 had just crashed in Milan, weighed on my mind as we bounced through winds after take-off. But I was also aware of the power of the plane’s engines, pulling us up to smoother air. As the winds calmed, so did my nerves. By the time breakfast was served, I was fast asleep.”

(The author is chairman and managing director, Positive Health Clinic, and can be contacted at help@positivehealthclinic.com)