Ad­vice on fears, foren­sics and fi­nance

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Ad­vice from the best in the UAE.


Q I’ve never been afraid of fly­ing, but last year I took a flight that was struck by se­vere tur­bu­lence and it felt ex­tremely fright­en­ing. Of course, we landed safely, but the ex­pe­ri­ence brought me to tears. Now I’m due to fly home in a month’s time and the thought of it is send­ing me into a panic. Is there any way I can over­come this?

AThis is not an un­com­mon prob­lem and it’s some­thing I help clients with reg­u­larly. Even though fly­ing is a very safe form of travel, some peo­ple can’t stop them­selves from feel­ing there is some­thing to­tally un­nat­u­ral about be­ing so high up in the air.

The fear you ex­pe­ri­enced with the tur­bu­lence has caused you to en­ter a ‘fight or flight’ sit­u­a­tion where the body’s nat­u­ral in­stincts take over. How­ever, you were also prob­a­bly acutely aware at the time that there was noth­ing you could ac­tu­ally do about the sit­u­a­tion, be­ing a pas­sen­ger and be­ing strapped in. This prob­a­bly com­pounded those feel­ings, leav­ing a last­ing sense of anx­i­ety that has now come back to the fore­front of your mind with an­other flight loom­ing.

There is much you can do to over­come this sit­u­a­tion. You could seek out a pro­fes­sional ‘fear of fly­ing’ pro­gramme or coach, but there are also strate­gies you can em­ploy your­self to re­build your con­fi­dence.

First, try to un­pick what spe­cific worry is trig­ger­ing your anx­i­ety. Many peo­ple as­sume the fear is as­so­ci­ated with crash­ing or dy­ing and this may be the case, but it is often caused by a fear of feel­ing the panic it­self, of los­ing con­trol and not be­ing able to es­cape. It sounds to me as if you have cre­ated a cat­a­strophic sce­nario in your head and this is caus­ing you to re­peat­edly ask those ‘what if?’ ques­tions that keep the fear at the fore­front of your mind. If you can work out what is turn­ing your ‘fear dial’ up, you can also be­gin to take con­trol of turn­ing it down.

Be­ing in pos­ses­sion of the facts about fly­ing will also help to re­as­sure you, so do your re­search about the sta­tis­tics as­so­ci­ated with air travel and you’ll re­alise that your chance of be­ing in a plane crash is about one in 10 mil­lion and that the feel­ing of tur­bu­lence is nor­mal – a bit like go­ing over a bump in the road in a car, some­thing that most of us don’t bat an eye­lid about. Anx­i­ety has a way of play­ing tricks on our abil­ity to keep things in per­spec­tive, so be­ing able to counter that with the re­al­ity will help. Ac­cep­tance is also an im­por­tant part of deal­ing with anx­i­ety. Fight­ing it makes those feel­ings so much big­ger. Ac­cept­ing the dis­com­fort anx­i­ety brings and work­ing to re­lax through it will re­duce rather than es­ca­late your panic.

An­tic­i­pat­ing your anx­i­ety and hav­ing strate­gies to deal with it is also im­por­tant when it comes to tak­ing back con­trol. Plan ahead and think about how you will act in each sit­u­a­tion, running a pos­i­tive video in your head as op­posed to a dis­as­ter movie. By this I mean think about each small step of the jour­ney, from pack­ing, to ar­riv­ing at the air­port, to wait­ing to board, and have dis­trac­tions planned so you can man­age your fear.

Mu­sic can help, but my ‘Stop and Leave’ tech­nique is very ef­fec­tive too. This in­volves notic­ing each time you en­ter catas­tro­phe thought mode and telling your­self to ‘stop’. Then vi­su­alise your­self at

Do your RE­SEARCH about the sta­tis­tics as­so­ci­ated with air travel. Anx­i­ety has a way of play­ing TRICKS on our abil­ity to keep things in per­spec­tive, so be­ing able to counter that with the RE­AL­ITY will help

your des­ti­na­tion en­joy­ing the plea­sures of re­lax­ing on the beach or feel­ing happy spend­ing time with fam­ily and friends. This is the ‘leave’ part and it re­trains your brain to start to be­lieve in the fact that you will sur­vive the flight and en­joy the re­wards of tak­ing it.

Do it one flight at a time, fol­low your panic man­age­ment plan and you’ll be fly­ing with­out fear in no time.

RUS­SELL HEMMINGS is a life coach, and clin­i­cal and cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­a­pist

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