Saturday, June 20, 2015

Confronting Acrophobia

I have been very fortunate this summer to attend weddings in both Florida and Colorado! From the depth of the ocean to the mountain tops, what could be any better? Although the scenery and the adventures have been awesome, I do have a few true confessions! When in Florida, I love the beach and the swimming pool too. Long ago I became certified in scuba diving.  I was convinced I wanted to experience the life under the sea. And then when I did, I quickly said never mind! It is fascinating, of course, with brilliantly colored species of sea life and the coral reefs are magnificent. Then one day I decided I really didn't want to know if "Jaws" was anywhere near me. I'd rather not know in advance if something dreadful was about to happen. So I let my diving certification expire and now I only wade into the rolling and sometimes aggressive ocean waters. In view of the many recent shark attacks this summer I am happy with this decision.

Gulf of Mexico
Captiva Island, Florida

Now on to Colorado! This is a whole 'nother game for me! I have some real phobias that cause me to panic. One is snakes! I can't even look at a picture of a snake without fear overtaking my psyche! And another major anxiety producing phobia I have had my entire life is acrophobia. This is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of heights.  When at an altitude above my normal grounded self I feel a sense of imbalance and become consumed with a fear of falling. To drive along the roads of the mountainous terrain of Colorado is extremely difficult for me.

Drive from Denver to Winter Park, Colorado

The wedding we attended in Colorado was at the YMCA of the Rockies - Snow Mountain Ranch, about 15 miles northwest of Winter Park Ski Resort. We flew into Denver via Southwest Airlines, rented a car, and then drove a little over 2 hours to our destination. It has been years since I last visited Colorado. At that time, I vowed never to return as I spent that entire trip hyperventilating! However, I convinced myself I had to be at Sara and Pete's wedding and everything would be okay. So here I was on my way to Snow Mountain Ranch! Although the magnificent snow capped mountain peaks, enormous pine trees, beautiful native plants and flowers, and the impressive wildlife are all exceptional, it just didn't work for me. Absolutely gorgeous scenery to gaze upon (when my eyes were open!), but actually rather terrifying as we twisted and turned on the mountainous roads. Once again, my anxiety was heightening with the ever increasing altitude!
The wedding ceremony took place atop Columbine Point and the backdrop of the snow covered Rocky Mountains was indeed glorious! However, to compensate for my fear, I had to completely focus my eyes upon the gorgeous bride and her handsome groom. I realize, regretfully, since there is so much to see and do in Colorado I really should have worked on overcoming my fear of heights long before our trip.

Columbine Point - Snow Mountain Ranch

Now that we are safely home at just about 465 feet above sea level, I belatedly decided to search online for methods to cope with my acrophobia. Too bad I didn't do this BEFORE our trip to Colorado! has an instructional video discussion highlighting 7 steps for managing a fear of height. Some suggested tips include breathing exercises to calm yourself and finding distractions by means of mental exercises or music.

An article by Mark Tyrrell published on his website suggests confronting your fear one step at a time. He recommends setting small challenges for yourself. In addition, the free audio contains more specific directions for preparing your mind to feel calm and relaxed before attempting to go to a higher elevation.

And finally, has an online tutorial on "How to Overcome a Fear of Heights." In conjunction with providing insightful information on acrophobia, it also recommends removing caffeine from your diet. WikiHow suggests that cutting down on your caffeine intake can make you feel more relaxed which will make it easier to confront your fear of height. It also suggests that if the methods discussed for overcoming your fear of heights are not resulting in a positive solution you may want or need to consider seeking help from a professional therapist.

Whatever your fears, the best of luck overcoming them!

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