27/08/2014 10:34 BST | Updated 26/10/2014 05:59 GMT

Fear of Flying: Seven Steps to Beat It

Does hopping aboard a plane reduce you to a gibbering wreck? If so, I know how you feel.

After all, I used to hate flying, too. In fact, things got so bad, I quit air travel for years. Now, I fly regularly - and find it blissfully dull.

How can you go from scared stiff to bored rigid? By embracing these 7 easy fear of flying tips.

1. Reduce your background anxiety.

Are you highly-strung in your day-to-day life? If so, you may have a high level of what psychologists call 'background anxiety'.

When your background anxiety is high, you're more likely to be freaked out by flying than someone who's background anxiety is lower.

How do you bring your day-to-day anxiety levels down? By doing stuff like meditation and physical exercise.

2. Stop fearing panic attacks.

Do you have panic attacks while flying? If so, I bet the thing you hate MOST about air travel is the fear of panic itself. The solution?

Stop FEARING panic. But how?

The trick is to get used to your panic attack symptoms. Like that awful out-of-body feeling. And the scary-fast heart rate.

The idea is that by making friends with the symptoms of your panic attacks, they'll seem less frightening.

And that means you'll be less likely to have them.

The other thing to bear in mind is that your panic attacks CANNOT last forever. At most, they'll go on for up to 20 minutes. After that, your brain is hardwired to shut them down.

3. Control your breathing.

When you start feeling panicky, it's likely that you replace your normal breathing with short, shallow breaths. Unfortunately, this upsets the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood. The result?

You get symptoms like dizziness and vertigo. Needless to say, these scary sensations make you panic even more.

The solution? Learn to breath slower when your nerves start going haywire. You'll feel calmer in seconds.

4. Get to know the facts.

To deal with your fear of flying, you need to be clear about what things worry you. Is it turbulence? Claustrophobia? Something else?

Once you know what spooks you, you need to study up on it.

For example, if you worry that turbulence could crash your plane, you need to get your head around the causes of turbulence. And why those causes DON'T threaten your plane's safety.

Armed with these facts, you can then master the following step.

5. Challenge your negative thoughts.

No matter how hard you try, fearful thoughts WILL creep into you head. To beat them back, you must learn to question their validity. But how?

By focusing on those FACTS that I mentioned earlier.

When you do this, you'll quickly feel calmer.

6. Gradually expose yourself to the stuff you fear.

To succeed, you need to expose yourself to your fears using baby steps. For example, if you're terrified of committing to a long-haul flight, start with a series of one-hour flights.

When you get comfy with those, do a series of two-hour flights. Keep taking longer and longer flights until the idea of doing a 12-hour leg doesn't faze you.

7. Fly lots.

Once you get reasonably comfortable with flying, keep doing it as much as possible. Why?

Because if you take a long break - say 12 months - there is a danger that your old fears will start creeping back again as you lose your familiarity with being on a plane.

You'll find more fear of flying tips at the Fear of Flying School.

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