As far as fears go, a fear of heights is a relatively common one. Officially known as acrophobia, a fear of heights is more than the normal fear or anxiety when at extreme and dangerous heights. Instead, acrophobia is the intense fear of heights that may not be particularly high. The fear could be triggered by something as simple as being on a short step ladder or looking out of the window from a floor that is above ground level. Acrophobia can become quite debilitating to the sufferer and can have an impact on everyday life.
If you experience this and want to take control, here are some techniques to help you to overcome a fear of heights!
1. Gradual exposure to the fear
Face your fears – it’s a cliché saying that is often incorporated in motivational quotes and speeches, but there is an importance to it when it comes to overcoming a fear of heights as exposure to the fear helps to desensitise yourself to the trigger.
A great way of using this to overcome your fear of heights is to gradually expose yourself to heights that you struggle with. Start low – start with a walk to the bottom of a hill and build yourself up to walk higher and higher. Alternatively, you could do this with a multi-story building, gradually moving up a level! This method of gradual exposure takes time, but eventually, you will be at the top of the hill and able to do something you never thought you would be able to.
2. Rationalise your fear
With acrophobia, the fear is often triggered in situations that aren’t rational. As an example, this could be the fear of being on the top floor of a secure building, despite being extremely safe and the chances of the situation resulting in harm being very unlikely.
Once a fear has developed, it’s easy to become anxious and forget about the safety of certain situations. It can be really easy to think irrationally and fuel your fear. To oppose this, try to make a conscious effort to consider situations that trigger your fear of heights and rationalise them. Explain to yourself that there is no need to be afraid of the height and that you are extremely safe. This reassurance can really help you to work towards overcoming your fear of heights.
3. Prepare yourself
When it comes to facing your fear, preparation is key. Think ahead to being in a situation that provokes your fear; imagine how you feel in the situation and think about how you are going to help yourself relax.
This process is particularly beneficial if you know you are going to be in a fear-evoking situation, as knowing what to expect reduces the likelihood of becoming panicky and flustered when the situation arises. This planning process helps to normalise the concept of being at a height, helping you to become more accepting and confident with them.
4. Practice relaxation techniques
Rapid heartbeat, short breaths, excessive sweating – these are all common symptoms associated with a fear of heights, and experiencing these symptoms can enhance the fear and panic.
Relaxation techniques can help to minimise these symptoms and get them under control. Deep breathing exercises are one of the most simple techniques to practice and can really help to make you feel more relaxed. It’s also beneficial to have something to focus on doing, rather than focusing on your fear. Mindbodygreen has created a numbered list of steps to help you with a simple breathing exercise that can reduce fear, check it out!
5. Choose the right activity
If you’re an outdoorsy person, you might find your acrophobia restricting you from particular places or activities. Challenging yourself to new activities is a brilliant way of facing fears head-on, but you can start small and aim high rather than starting with anything too intense and unnerving.
Here at How Stean Gorge, you could start with gorge walking – an exhilarating activity that doesn’t involve too many heights, just climbing over small boulders. We also have a brilliant new glass floor room that can allow you to be at a height extremely safely. You could then go onto try rock climbing, where you are strapped securely with an instructor on-hand. And once you’ve conquered this, you could challenge yourself to Via Ferrata, a high wire adventure that involves walking across wires above flowing water and various heights.
Whether you want to conquer your fears indoors or out, create small goals that you want to achieve and focus on achieving them one at a time.
A fear of heights can have a huge impact on your life, but it isn’t something that you have to accept. With these tips in mind, overcoming your fear of heights is definitely achievable!