One day, about a month ago, my husband and I set out on to explore a new park and go for a gentle hike. I was about five months pregnant (yes! I’m pregnant :), so we chose an easy trail. We bought ice cream and proceeded on the paved road, delighted by our new discovery and the beautiful vistas in front of us. Slowly the paved road turned into a dirt road, then into a kind of jagged path, littered with loose rocks and exposed tree roots, then the path got so skinny, we weren’t sure we were even still on it. The path seemed to disappear under my feet and turn into a series of substantial hills to ascend and descend. I began to feel flush and overcome with fear.
Inside my head I was all like, “Shit! Why am I doing this? This is so stupid...what if I fall? My imagination imagined the worst. And it didn’t help that I could also hear my mom’s voice, “Are you sure you should be going for a hike?”
It’s easy to get excited about an adventure in the beginning and then… regret it. Ever been there?
Looking ahead and seeing how far we had to go, I began to freeze up: How am I going to make it?
Fortunately, I did make it. And what helped me move through my fear on this hike, I realized, were strategies that work for surviving most journeys (literally and figuratively):
- 1) No pain, no gain. Fear isn’t always a sign of danger; sometimes, it’s an indication of a new growth spurt. In my online class, I talk about The Hero’s Journey and how the roads that lead us to our greatest growth don’t always feel so great in the process. Especially when the journey or endeavor is new to us. Ask yourself, are you being led or stopped by fear?
- 2) “One step at a time” is not just a corny expression. As soon as I’d scope out how much farther we had to go, I’d start freaking out. But when I focused just on taking the one step in front of me, I could manage that. Of course, having a sense of the Big Picture is always a good thing…as long as you can also see the immediate steps you need to take to get there.
- 3) Don’t go it alone. The buddy system isn’t just about staying safe. Studies suggest that challenges seem less daunting when we’re facing them with a friend or supportive colleague. Thank goodness I was with my hubby, Ilya! He walked ahead of me and would offer his hand whenever he sensed I was about to freak out.
- 4) Don’t just stand there, do something! Have you noticed, life doesn’t let us stay stuck for long. An uncomfortable situation just gets worse until we take some kind of action to deal with it. So, refusing to budge is rarely a good option. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a break, catch your breath, even rest for a bit. Just as long as you start moving again…before too long.
- 5) Ain’t no shame in admitting you’re scared. When the going got tough, I got silent. At first. But as soon as I shared my fears with my husband, I instantly felt a little better. In fact, research shows that acknowledging our negative feelings out loud can help them dissipate faster. And in my case, “loud” was the operative word….
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