Anxiety, we all know what that is as Climbers. Maybe except for Alex Honnold, but I´m sure he experiences it once in a while too.
Anxiety is a way to warn your body, mind and soul that there is something dangerous happening. In other words, it is a natural and instinctive reaction. However, it can become such an issue, that it becomes un-natural to react that way. For instance, climbing a 3, 4 or 5 with high amounts of anxiety, is a sign there is more happening than just anxiety for climbing. Maybe you experience anxiety for falling, performance, heights, or you are not comfortable in your skin at the moment. All kinds of reasons, and some I discuss more in detail below.
1. Performance anxiety
Stepping into the climbing gym, or at the rock, and thinking: ´I should be able to do this by now´. Is a recipe for Performance Anxiety. Indeed:
´Performance anxiety is a type of anxiety, or strong, excessive feeling of fear or worry, that is related to being able to accomplish something specific, or a fear of consequences of not being able to perform well´ (Olivine, 2022).
This hinders the growth process, so important for climbing, and can even increase the likeliness of an injury (Olivine, 2022). Yet, we all have this little monkey on our shoulders from time to time, I´m sure. Just relax, and enjoy climbing, moving around, and the scenery outside.
2. Fear of Falling
Fear of falling is natural to us humans, except maybe for certain cases, we all know how it feels. Trembling/elvis legs, sweaty hands, slippery slopes, and to just let go and jump into the rope, can be scary at times, maybe a lot of times for those dealing with more than one fear (see above and below). But once you fall, it just feels ok and can even be enjoyable. So let go with the flow, and jump into the rope.
3. Fear of Heights
Fear of heights is also a natural feeling when rockclimbing and/or bouldering. It is perfectly acceptable to experience this, yet, you do not have to let go because of it. Try to remain calm while climbing, check your rope and belay master accordingly if that helps, and continue climbing steadily and slowly. Otherwise practice falling and you will know that the rope will have you for sure.
Other tips for dealing with Anxiety
One important thing to notice and accept is the fact THAT you experience fear. You don´t have to endulge in or identify with it, but just notice it. It is not something which makes you as a person, yet you do experience it, and that is ok. Furthermore:
- Take time to mentally prepare
- Visualize yourself overcoming your fear
- Move slowly
- Go easy on yourself (Kirby, 2022).
- Enjoy the process, movements and environment, whether indoors and/or outdoors!
Kirby, S. (2022). How to Overcome Your Fear of Heights. On: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/phobias/how-to-handle-and-overcome-your-fear-of-heights/
Olivine, A. (2022). What is Performance Anxiety? On: https://www.verywellhealth.com/performance-anxiety-5200716