Fear of flying? Meditation can help

As we enter the holiday season many people feel anxious about flying. The good news is that there is something that can be done to address anxiety without drugs and has been shown to reduce fear.

Fear is a sense of anxiety that is felt by individuals who are confronted with a situation that illicit a fight or flight response. The fight or flight response is a natural process, however, within certain mindsets, this process can be rapidly triggered by thoughts, specifically, when one engages in “what if” scenarios that represent a threat to the individual.

Anxiety sensitivity (AS) is the fear of anxiety and anxiety-related sensations in which individuals develop panic and certain types of other anxiety problems.

Research has consistently demonstrated how mindfulness plays an important role in psychological functioning generally and anxiety problems specifically, for example, high levels of mindfulness have been associated with lower mood disturbance and stress symptoms among cancer patients.

Mindfulness is the conscious ‘‘attention to, and awareness of, what is occurring in the present”, emotions, thoughts, sensations.

Mindfulness enables high AS individual to attend to the current situation, therefore gaining a more objective, non-judgmental perception of the level of personal threat enabling the exercise of choice, rather than reacting to it in an excessively anxiety-relevant manner.

Normal psychological patterns of behaviour for those with AS tends to be individuals who engage in ‘‘what if’’ future-oriented thinking thereby trigger the physiological symptoms of anxiety, thus leading to panic responses.

Research in a community sample of 248 individuals demonstrated the interaction between Anxiety Sensitivity and mindfulness significantly predicted anxious arousal symptoms and agoraphobic cognitions and the use of mindfulness directly impacted on anxiety and panic responses in these individuals.

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