Overcoming fear of heights is perhaps one of the most common self-improvement motivators that drives first-time tandem skydivers come to visit us at Skydive Chicago. Fear of skydiving is almost always related to fear of heights, after all, and you might have the distinct inkling that it’s time to slay yours. Acrophobia is a special thing! There are few fears as petrifying, as tenacious — or as gosh-danged common. There aren’t many people on this gravity-driven planet, after all, that don’t count fear of heights in their “eek” column. Here’s how to make quick work of yours.
1. Prepare Yourself Properly
If you know that you are going to be in a situation that will expose you to acrophobic symptoms — for example, skydiving — make sure that you’re physically ready. Eat regular, moderate amounts of healthful food. Hydrate. Don’t show up hung over (!). Don’t arrive ill, even if you’re just battling a head cold. Wear comfortable, close-fitting athletic clothes and shoes that tie firmly closed. Finally: We know you’re nervous, but get your sleep! Arriving rested will definitely help in your epic battle vs. the fear of skydiving.
2. Slow It Down
Are you so acrophobic that you’re not quite ready to face freefall? Don’t sweat it. Sure, psychologists treated phobias back in the good-old-bad-old days by throwing people into the deep end, but we know better now: the “full-immersion method” generally freaked people out too much to do much good. In fact, patients’ phobias tended to be considerably worse after such treatment.
In modern times, we’ve done away with that blarney. Enlightened psychologists still recommend that people confront their fear, but that they approach it steadily, at their own pace. If your goal is to bin your fear of skydiving, set small, regular goals — for instance, working an inch closer to a certain balcony railing — and gnawing away at it every day until you suddenly realize you’re ready to book a tandem skydive. It’ll happen sooner than you think!
3. Visualization is Magic you Can Use
Close your eyes. Then visualize — in detail! — all of the security precautions that will surround you on the dropzone and in the plane. Do a little bit of research into the astoundingly excellent safety statistics that the United States Parachute Association has collected over the years. Let these feelings of security sink into your subconscious, where they’ll be waiting to help you when your heart starts pounding.
4. Remember to Breathe
Anxiety-inducing situations have the unnerving tendency to make people forget to breathe. Unfortunately, not breathing makes anxiety so much worse. Direct plenty of calming oxygen to your the brain by taking deep, regular belly breaths from the moment you book your tandem skydive to the moment you’re looking out that open door — any time the anxiety rears its head.
Take heart, dear reader! Fear of heights doesn’t dissolve in a day. Allow yourself the time and space you need to work on this challenge, without pressure or judgment. Be as gentle with yourself as you’d be with a dear friend. You owe yourself that kindness!