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  • Dr. Shane Owens

Get on the plane

If you have watched the news this morning, you know that an Airbus 320 flying to Cairo from Paris crashed last night. If you are flying, you are probably feeling at least a little nervous about your flight. You may even consider not flying today, or ever again.

Get on the plane.

As real as your anxiety feels, there are two mistakes that your brain is making.

Overestimating risk.

When we are anxious, our brains tend to overestimate the probability of negative events.

For instance, you might be looking out the window at JFK right now at the Airbus 320 you are getting ready to board. You find yourself thinking, "That plane that crashed yesterday was the same plane. Chances are something is wrong with that one, too. There's gotta be something wrong with that plane."

Thinking the worst.

The show-off word for this is "catastrophizing."

You are staring at that Airbus 320 through the terminal windows. You think, "Something is wrong with that plane. I know it. And it's not the kind of thing the pilots will be able to fix. There will be no emergency landing. That plane is going down."

Now, under different circumstances, you would come to my office and we would work over the course of the next several weeks to change those faulty thoughts.

But there's no time for all that.

They just called your row.

Ask yourself two questions:

What are the odds that something will go wrong on this flight? What would you do if the worst thing happened?

If you're being realistic, it is very hard--if not impossible--to make a good argument not to get on that plane. The chances of something happening are very small. The chances of something really bad happening are negligible. The chances of you not being able to cope with whatever happens is too small to measure.

The worst thing you can do right now--as they are calling your name over the public address system, demanding that you report to gate number "whatever"--is not board that plane.

This is how anxiety takes hold. This is how it begins to shrink your life.

Get on the plane.

Have a good flight.

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