Are you afraid of heights? Like: Really afraid of heights? There are few fears as horrifying, hard to shake… or as common. Overcoming your fear of heights isn’t the same as overcoming your fear of talking to the cute barista, or your terror of speaking in front of a large group of people. Overcoming your fear of heights generally means getting over, in some small way, your fear of … dying. And let’s face it – that’s no easy task. But we think we can help.
There are two fears that science has proven we’re born with: fear of the dark, and fear of heights. It’s evolution. Honestly, you’re probably here because your ancestors were afraid of the dark and of heights. Embrace it.
The Flavors of Fear
Fear of heights isn’t entirely a bad thing, of course. This fear puts the tingly butterflies in your stomach at the top of the ferris wheel. It injects exhilaration into a steep ski run. It puts the whee in a hot-air balloon ride. Most of the time you reach out to touch your fear of heights, it puts a smile on your face.
Of course, it comes in several flavors. Some people’s fear is full-on acrophobia — making it almost physically impossible to drive across bridges, walk close to a floor-to-ceiling window in a tall building, or even so much as climb a ladder. Since acrophobia is an actual condition, it has actual symptoms: breathlessness, dizziness, light-headedness, vertigo, excessive sweating, muscle tension, tremors, heart palpitations, stomach cramps, nausea, headaches, panic, and acute anxiety. (Sheesh!) In actual acrophobics, these symptoms can be triggered by the simple act of standing on a chair. They’re often prescribed medication to be able to lead normal lives.
Using Skydiving to Work on Your Fear of Heights
Want to use skydiving as a “workshop” to help you get through your fear of heights? Plenty of people have done it! Probably because the sport is so well-regulated and has such an excellent safety record, people intuitively understand that they just might experience a meaningful breakthrough. If that’s your goal, here’s how to make your jump a personal victory:
1. Give yourself permission to be scared
Everybody’s scared when they skydive for the first time. You won’t be the first white-faced student your tandem master has seen this week — or even today. If you admit that you’re terrified, the people on the dropzone will rally around to help you.
2. Visualize success
After you’ve had your tandem student briefing, you’ll know about all the safety precautions that will surround you in the hair-raising situation you’re about to enter. Use that information! Close your eyes and visualize the equipment supporting and surrounding you. Let these feelings of safety sink deep into your subconscious, where they can help you when your heart starts pounding.
3. Breathe deeply!
Anxiety-inducing situations (like jumping out of an airplane flying miles up in the sky) have the unnerving tendency to make people forget to breathe. Not breathing makes anxiety so much worse. But don’t worry – you CAN BREATHE. Make sure you get plenty of oxygen to the brain by taking deep, regular belly breaths. Your brain will reward you for the gift of plenty of oxygen with extra relaxation when you need it.
4. Take it easy on yourself
Skydiving may help you conquer your fear of heights, but you should know that acrophobia definitely won’t dissolve in a day. Allow yourself the time and space you need to work on your fear of heights without unnecessary pressure or self-judgment. Be gentle with yourself. You’re amazing!
And if you still have doubts as to skydiving’s usefulness in overcoming your fear of heights, read this: Why a Fear of Heights Means Nothing in Skydiving.