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7 Tips to overcome your fear of heights

Have you have ever felt your heart beating faster as you were about to cross a rope monkey bridge or along a rocky cliff overlooking a steep slope? If you are familiar with that feeling then you may be prone to acrophobia: the fear of heights. Here are 7 tips to tame this fear and make your hiking more enjoyable.

 

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The difference between vertigo and fear of heights

But first, what are we really talking about? Is vertigo or fear of the heights? The term vertigo is normally used in a general way whereas it is a physiological phenomenon. People suffering from vertigo are actually disturbed by the difference between the signals sent by their vision and their inner ear (which manages the balance). To put it simply, if you stand in a glass cage above, your eyes will tell you that you are in a vacuum, although your feet may be firm on the ground.
If you are experience dizziness, you would better consult an ENT to detect if there is any injury in the inner ear.

On the other hand the fear of heights, or acrophobia is a real phobia. Like any phobia, it may irrational and rather difficult, but not impossible to treat. So here are our tips to help your hiking not to turn into a nightmare.

 

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# 1 Share with other hikers

Do not be afraid to talk about it as you may encounter more people who are suffering from the same problem. Nobody will judge you and this fear does not make you a worse hiker! You may be lucky to meet people who have overcome acrophobia. They will be able to share their experiences and help you. This is a good reason to meet other hikers!

 

# 2 Have confidence in yourself and your equipment

There are no bad tools, only bad craftsmen. You can however rely on a small placebo effect that your equipment may give you. Invest in shoes in which will make you more confident in addition to having resilient walking sticks and a backpack that does not interfere with your movements or make you lose balance. Find out here how to load and balance your bag, but also how to properly set it here to feel safe and more able to face your fear.

 

#3 Quantify and rationalize

If possible try to identify what triggers this fear. Is it the slopes? Bridges? According to you what are the specific situations which trigger the feeling of your legs being restless? Place your fear on a scale of 1 to 10. This will allow you to rationalize and to take a little distance from the situation to regain your calm. If you are not a severe acrophobic, ask yourself in each situation what is the imagined risk and the real risk. Put into perspective and take control of your fear in specific situations.

 

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# 4 Face the fear step by step

You can get help in your endavour. There are special therapies for this kind of phobia. The most known is cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT). The principle is simple: gradually confront the fear to regain control and subdue your thoughts.
This does not mean that you have to make the big jump immediately. Take your time. The first steps for the more phobic ones will be to think about the heights while remaining calm.

 

# 5 Relearn how to breathe

Anxiety largely feeds the fear of heights. There are very simple breathing yet very effective techniques to help you regain self-confidence and to pass through this difficult passage that separates you from the summit. Meditation, sophrology or even yoga breathing exercises like the ones very well explained here in this article written by our Yogis friends from Domyos which can help you reduce your stress on a daily basis and also when hiking. During your trek, be careful not to hyperventilate (breathe very quickly). You should slow down your breathing by breathing in deeply with the belly.

 

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# 6 Do not look down

You have surely already heard it: never look down. The heights will only increase your fear. If you find yourself facing the heights during your hiking without being able to turn around you should instead focus your sight on a fixed point in the distance. Do not forget to raise your feet and test unstable ground to avoid slipping or falling.

 

# 7 Do not be afraid to be ridiculed

In the most frightening situations forget your ego and walk on your hands and knees if necessary. A moment of ridicule is better than a severe crisis followed by a long slip. You can help yourself with the wall or branches after checking their strength and good entrenchment beforehand. Avoid clinging on your hiking companion who may lose balance and lead you both to fall!

Do not hesitate to use hiking poles to insure yourself on steep slopes. Find out more about the rules in our article here.

 

How about you, what are your tips to overcome the fear of the heights? Share your comments!

 

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