Things To Help You Climb If You’re Afraid of Heights
Tips from our Face Your Fear Expert, Gemma Cribb B Psych (hons), M Psychol (Clin).
One of the best ways to help your body calm down is to slow your breathing. Slowing your breathing stops hyperventilation (getting too much oxygen). If you slow your breathing, particularly your out-breath you will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will help your body relax and reduce the flow of adrenalin. You want to be breathing a maximum of 10 – 12 breaths per minute which means breathing in for a count of three seconds and out for three, although the longer the better!
2. Watch your thinking
The Bridge is perfectly safe however, people who are anxious will generally be having false thoughts like: “I will fall!”, “I’ll get stuck!”, “I won’t be able to get off”, “I’ll embarrass myself!”, “It will feel awful!”. It is this type of thinking, rather than any real threat, that sends danger signals to the brain for it to react with an anxiety response, also known as a ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.
Try coming up with some helpful thoughts. Ask people who aren’t anxious about heights for some tips on what they think as they look out over a balcony or climb the Bridge. Usually they will say that they think things like: “this will be fun!”, “what an amazing view!”, “what a great experience”.
If you find that before your climb you struggle with thinking more helpful positive thoughts, you can also try distraction. Try not to think about your upcoming Climb, instead watch TV, have conversations about other things, do some work…whatever it takes to get your mind off your unhelpful height-related thoughts.
During the whole Climb experience, your Climb Leader will give you great commentary filling you in on the history of the Bridge and tell you some stories about the construction of the Bridge. Concentrate on these stories, which you will be able to hear through your headsets.
The best way to prepare for your BridgeClimb is to practice facing your fear on smaller challenges beforehand. Some people have so much anxiety about heights that even thinking about heights can produce anxiety. Other people might need to do things like climbing ladders or looking out over increasingly high balconies in order to feel their fear. The key is to feel your fear but stay in that situation until it lessens. Your fear will always go away if you stay put and think helpful thoughts. Once you have faced a smaller challenge move on to a bigger one until you feel more ready to do the BridgeClimb Sampler.
5. Trust your body
Your body is designed to keep you safe in the face of fear. As such, the body sensations that you experience when you are afraid (be it of a real threat or an imagined one like the BridgeClimb) are perfectly normal and safe.
Your heart will begin to race and your breathing will get fast and shallow. This is the body’s way of preparing you to fight or run away from a threat, if there was an actual danger. Similarly you sweat to cool your body down if you are running or fighting.
Some of our physical reactions occur because although our body is prepared for action, we are not actually fighting or running. For example, your muscles will get tight and you will tremble if they are full of blood and oxygen. You will also get dizzy if you have been breathing heavily and not using the oxygen up. Once again, all this is normal and the body is perfectly equipped to cope with this.
6. Trust BridgeClimb
BridgeClimb has been helping people conquer their fear of heights for more than 16 years. They have helped more than 3.2 million people to reach the summit, from 137 countries around the world. They have a 100% safety record. Just think about it, people would not do it and the company would not be able to operate if it was not completely safe!
BridgeClimb Climb Leaders are all very friendly and experienced in guiding people through their fear and helping them believe they can do it. You will be given an in-depth tutorial on all your safety gear and how it works and be guided through the Climb step-by-step. They take a lot of pride in helping you through and will celebrate the triumph with you. They will literally hold your hand every step of the way if that’s what you need!
7. One step at a time
If you are nervous on the Bridge, try to just focus on the present moment, one step at a time. Placing one foot in front of the other, breathing and listening to your Climb Leader’s stories will get you there much more comfortably than thinking too far ahead or worrying what about is yet to come.
8. Look out, not down
If you are afraid of heights you can feel more comfortable looking horizontally, not downwards. Most of us have seen a view of Sydney Harbour on TV or out of a window, but the view from the Bridge is sensational. Looking out to the side will give you a similar, familiar and magnificent perspective.
9. Ground yourself
If you feel wobbly or light-headed it can be comforting to ground yourself. Push your feet in your shoes against the solid pathway. Squeeze the hand rails to remind yourself that everything is sturdy and safe and you are in control.
10. Reward yourself
Make your BridgeClimb experience is special and reward yourself by sharing it with a loved one or doing it for a special occasion. Plan to celebrate your success afterwards with a nice meal or treat yourself to a congratulatory present.
BridgeClimb will take photos of you on the Bridge which and you can show them off like a badge of honour.