Say Bye-Bye to Fear of Flying

Even without the higher luggage fees and airlines' services cut, getting on a plane is just a dreaded experience for some people. If your fear of flying is keeping you grounded, these helpful tips from knowledgeable experts can have you soaring through the air calmly.

Tip 1: "Make Your Fear Public, Literally!"

One of the first steps to get over the fear of flying is simple and straightforward: You must recognize flying makes you highly anxious or even terrified.

"To accept that you're anxious is one of the best ways to reduce your anxiety," says Dr. Reid Wilson, a specialist in the treatment of anxiety disorders in Chapel Hill, N.C.

If you struggle against your feelings of anxiety or fear of flying, this would only increase the symptoms you are trying to overcome, Wilson said.

Fearful passengers should understand it is OK to feel anxious and that it would take practice before they no longer feel nervous on an airplane, explains Wilson in Achieving Comfortable Flight, a self-help kit available online.

People afraid of flying should not perceive it as though it is something "crazy," said Ronald Nielsen, a veteran pilot who has been helping people afraid of flying for 20 years and author of The Fearless FlightKit.

"We have a tendency to think that we're the only ones with our problems, and fear of flying has an aspect of that because people look around [an airplane] and they perceive that everyone else is just fine about flying. The truth of the matter is that there are a lot of people that are at least anxious about it," Nielsen said.

When you know and accept your feelings, you can be proactive in finding ways to control your fears. "If you feel panicky, you can control that by thinking and visualizing it's going to go away," advises Stacey Chance, creator of an online course for people afraid of flying.

Tip 2: You Think You Know, but You Have No Idea

Most people afraid of flying express the most concern about take-off, landing and, of course, turbulence. Having little knowledge about the process of flying an aircraft makes the experience even more frightening.

"You must learn the plain truth about aviation," Nielsen said. Learning a little of how an airplane works and the process of flying helps you understand common sensations and sounds that are often experienced in a flight, thus making it less scary for you.

There is no need to become an aviation expert, but some things to consider learning are how airplanes are built, about regulations and compliances for airlines and air-traffic control, modern innovations in aviation and why those unpleasant turbulences happen.

"When you're flying, it is almost like being in a boat, bouncing up and down a little bit with the different currents of air acting like the waves in the water," Nielsen said.

Knowing a thing or two about psychology can also help.

"They need to educate themselves about how humans generate fears and how to manage it," said Nielsen, who also encourages flyers to look at "their specific process, because it's different for everyone."

Tip 3: Distract Yourself, but Find a Good Way to Do So

So you are already on the plane, and as much as you're trying, nothing seems to help you keep your mind off the fact you are thousands of feet up in the air. You need to learn the most effective ways to distract yourself.

It is not always as easy as you might think.

"I find that audio distractions are probably the most effective one," said Nielsen. You do have to be creative with this method or it just won't work effectively, he added.

"I caution them not to use something like their old favorite songs, because as the brain recognizes them, it doesn't really get you distracted," Nielsen said.

Essentially, the best thing is to listen to something you're unfamiliar with, music you would not normally hear or an audio book, Nielsen said.

Whether it is music, puzzles or reading material, Wilson, the anxiety disorders specialist, recommends always bringing things you expect to keep you entertained and distracted.

"Get yourself busy," he said. "The worst thing you want to do is to get on a plane and try to do meditation."

Tip 4: Take Supportive Actions; Be Prepared!

Work toward increasing your level of comfort before your flight, recommends Wilson.

Take simple steps like decreasing your caffeine and sugar consumption the day before and the day of your flight, suggests Wilson in Achieving Comfortable Flight.

Be organized and proactive in preparing for your flight. In addition to packing well ahead of time, do your best to get to the airport as early as possible, because "you do not want to be flustered and it helps you feel more in control," online course instructor Chance said.

Tip 5: "You've Got to Trust the Industry"

You could learn every relaxation trick there is, learn all the basics about aviation and prepare yourself well ahead of your flight, but chances are nothing will help you overcome your fear unless you take another important step.

"You must start trusting the industry," Wilson said. "As you're getting ready to take a flight you need to think that it's not about the airlines, or the weather, or the mechanics" and instead understand it's about your fear and how you can find better ways to handle it.

"People often think about the possibility of the problem and not the probability of it," he said. Even though some statistics suggest that the probability of being in a plane crash is near zero, people afraid of flying often focus their attention on the fact that it remains a possibility.

"Don't let yourself go down the road of 'what if this happens' or 'what if that goes wrong,'" Chance said. Instead, focus in the present and in ways to deal with your own fear.

How do you cope with fear of flying? ABC NEWS would like to know! Leave your comments below.