If you have a fear of flying and still push yourself to fly, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the anxiety or panic that can accompany buying the plane ticket. It may seem simple to buy a ticket — you can sit in your chair in the comfort of your own home, click a few buttons on the computer, and you have a ticket. However this step can be a significant obstacle to conquering a fear of flying.
The reason this step can be such a struggle is that buying the ticket is the moment where the commitment is made to take the flight. Before buying the ticket, it’s easy to procrastinate, possibly hoping that something will come up and make the trip unnecessary. But once the ticket is purchased, the focus shifts from ‘how do I avoid the flight?’ to ‘I am taking the flight…how do I deal with it?’.
Part of the obstacle is that it can be easy to justify not buying the ticket. But not buying the ticket actually exacerbates the fear and anxiety. Generally, each time we avoid facing a fear, we strengthen the fear. Therefore, every time we avoid buying the ticket, it makes it that much less likely that we ever will.
So, how can we get through the anxiety and take the step of buying the plane ticket? Here are a few suggestions:
1) Focus towards the trip. With a fear of flying, focusing on the anxiety of the flight can dilute the experience and meaning of the destination. Set yourself up with some paper or a word document, and take some time to write or type about where you’re going. What do you find meaningful and what are you looking forward to about the trip? If it isn’t for pleasure, write about the reasons the trip is necessary or important.
2) Beware of justifications. When facing anxiety or panic, we instinctively reach for reasons to evade the situation. The stronger the fear, the stronger the thoughts will be. It’s important to understand that these justifications are more emotional and less logical. For example, I’ve worked with people who are in comfortable career situations contemplate quitting their jobs when the occasional need for air travel becomes necessary. Or, when travel is for pleasure, random appointments and activities start showing up in people’s calendars during the trip dates that are rendered “unchangeable”. Identifying the justifications as they surface will help you to set them aside.
3) Focus toward accomplishment. By purchasing the ticket, we are creating the opportunity and environment for growth. While still keeping an eye towards the destination, try to view the ticket as a step towards overcoming your fear.
4) The bandaid approach. While the “just do it” approach isn’t necessarily best for every situation or everyone, it can help us take a healthy step before we can talk ourselves out of doing it. Make a decision to save the emotions for after purchasing the ticket, and just go and do it. There will be time afterwards for acknowledging the anxieties and fears. If this isn’t for you, skip this approach.
5) Plan an activity. Once the ticket is purchased, it’s common that there may be some new feelings of anxiety, knowing now that you will be taking the trip. Have a physically or mentally stimulating activity scheduled for right after buying the ticket in order to give your flight-related thoughts and emotions a break.
6) Be Happy. Always remember to take a moment to recognize your accomplishment when you take a new or difficult step. Do this immediately after buying the ticket — whether it’s a small reward, or just a smile and positive self-praise. Any other emotions can be placed on hold until after this step.