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Tips For The Traveling Executive: Overcoming The Fear of Flying
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Tips For The Traveling Executive: Overcoming The Fear of Flying - Executive Leadership Articles

Tips For The Traveling Executive: Overcoming The Fear of Flying

Executive Leadership Articles

Tips For The Traveling Executive: Overcoming The Fear of Flying

The fear of flying doesn’t care who you are or what you do for a living. NFL Hall-of-Famer John Madden was a professional football coach for eighteen seasons and didn’t realize until well into his career that the anxiety he felt before (and during) every flight didn’t happen to everyone. By some estimates, nearly a third of the adult population fears airplane travel, and the condition hits celebrities, business leaders, and people from every other category or sub-category.

Many of us can manage our fears by simply avoiding flying altogether. Family trips can be taken in cars; long trips can happen on buses or trains. Madden continued to fly until he was no longer a coach in the NFL. When he became the most popular football analyst on television, he traveled by train whenever he could. And sometime during his stint as co-host of Monday Night Football, he was provided a tour bus, dubbed the Madden Cruiser, and a personal driver which drove him from one game location to the next.

But many of us need to travel as part of our work, and then avoiding our fears isn’t an option. Dealing with our fears becomes necessary, whether we launch an effort to overcome them entirely or to manage them so they do not control us. Late-night TV host Craig Ferguson overcame his fear of flying by earning a pilot’s license, figuring that the more he understood about flight, the less he would have to be afraid of.

Madden’s replacement in the Monday Night Football booth, ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, frequently discusses his fear of flying, which was enough of an inconvenience that he offered it as his reason for resigning from the MNF gig after two seasons. No longer required by his job to get on planes, Kornheiser now flies only when he has compelling reasons to, reasons worth the preparation he goes through in managing his fear. Now, in addition to having a lucky “flying shirt,” an assortment of “totems and amulets,” and a relaxation tape to which he listens beginning a couple of weeks before a planned flight, he also calls the airlines ahead of time to explain this discomfort and to request that he meet the pilot and flight crew in advance of takeoff. He’s still not comfortable on planes—he spends entire flights just staring ahead, not eating or listening to books on tape or conversing—but neither is he letting his fear prevent him from doing the things he wants to do.

Some people take tranquilizers or sleep-aid medication to help with stress levels. This may work for some people, but you probably know there are side-effects. First, a two-hour or four-hour flight may make a pill designed to last eight hours seem like overkill, especially if the effect hinders your ability to conduct business or to socialize until the effects wear off. Also, in addition to drowsiness, these medications should never be taken with alcohol, and many suppress appetite. Getting to your destination without freaking out is great, but if you’re in no condition to eat or drink once you get there, you may find it difficult to enjoy yourself.

Many airports and airlines offer workshops for people afraid to fly, and there are also private organizations devoted specifically to helping people manage their anxieties in air travel. Some of the courses cost a fair amount of money, but if they do the job, they may prove to be completely worth it over time, especially if they decrease your stress and allow you more business travel on behalf of your company.

The fear of flying is very real, and it doesn’t matter whether there’s a good “reason” for your fear, or whether others might call it “irrational.” Neither situation changes the truth of your feelings, and they deserve to be acknowledged by others as you deal with them. You may never get over your fear of flying, but you don’t have to let it get in the way of your career, family life, or social life.

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Tips For The Traveling Executive: Overcoming The Fear of Flying - Executive Leadership Articles

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