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How Rock Climbing Helped Me to Overcome Fear and Stay Focused

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

When starting to rock climb, I experienced just how powerful the effects fear really has physically and mentally. It distorted my perception of what was around, not able to see the next hold on the wall. Rapidly losing strength in my arms and legs, frozen, clinging to the wall, experiencing symptoms similar to a deer caught in headlights.

Thoughts were on the potential dangers, ‘what if’ scenarios, what if the rope broke, was my harness tight enough so I wouldn’t fall out. Although these thoughts were irrational, as everything was checked several times beforehand, they felt very real.

The brain was no longer focused on reasoning and logic, it was being hijacked by the emotional centre sending me deeper into a spiral of fear and negative thinking.

The principles that I used to help me get over my fear and stay focused when rock climbing also can be applied to other areas of life.

Understand fear and use it as a motivator

Marketers use fear as a motivator as often as they can, it is used to sell almost anything, insurance, tires, hair products to name a few. By recognising the symptoms and understanding them, it brings us a step closer towards reigning in our emotions. My fear of falling, kept me on the rock surface and looking up. Thinking about our retirement plan and realising it is not sufficient, can act as a trigger to re-organise our current financial situation. Some high achieving individuals have a fear of not being good enough (imposter syndrome).

Focus on the next step, that is within reach

At this point the end goal could be too far away and seem impossible. By focusing only on that, is like looking too far ahead into the future, we don’t know what can happen and things change. What seemed easy from a distance, can be very different when we reach that point. Focus on the next step that is within reach, by doing this we keep ourselves moving, preventing us from becoming ‘stuck’. A technique called ‘chunking’, breaking things down into small realistic steps. Often used for motivation and to help when feeling overwhelmed.

Check where your feet are

Checking you footing is similar to using the grounding technique which connects you with the present moment. It is helpful with managing overwhelming feelings or anxiety, often used with PTSD or a variant of mindfulness. Focus on skills that you have, draw upon past experiences that can help you in the current situation, look at what you’ve achieved so far to help with your confidence.

Have one person that you trust to support you

The person that is securing the rope when climbing, is able to advise where to go, give support when feeling tired, offer encouragement and able to see things from a different perspective. Having somebody like this to help you succeed is a great advantage, whether it is a mentor, coach or a counsellor. Someone you respect and trust that can be objective, supportive and want you to succeed, this makes a big difference.

Fear is an emotion that should not be avoided, if managed correctly it can be very rewarding, it can expand our comfort zone and open us up to new experiences. So, remember these 4 simple steps the next time you are feeling anxious and unable to focus.

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