I hate to fly. I hate it. Sometimes I even have panic attacks. I've tried all sorts of strategies to get over this—breathing exercises, visualizations, and Valium. None of these helped all that much. Here's what did: I told someone on the plane that I was afraid to fly, and he offered to get me a glass of water. That's it. To my surprise, I calmed down on the spot. I learned that getting someone to care about me, even for a moment, even if he or she is just pretending, calms me down. The truth is that 99 percent of humanity is good. When you are vulnerable, people actually want to protect you. When you know this, you can relax. The likelihood is that someone will be there for you.
Try this: If you notice panic rising, reach out to someone. You could strike up a little conversation with the person next to you. Or you could call a friend, write a letter, send an e-mail. You don't have to go into the whole story. You can say something like, "I'm having a hard day and thinking about you lifts my spirits." If you don't want to communicate with anyone, make this request within yourself: "May this fear build a bridge between myself and others." The key is to counter the energy of fear, which spirals in and down to make you feel heavy and isolated, with the energy of connection, which spirals out and around, lightening the situation on all levels.