How facing my fears in the outdoors helped me overcome anxiety

My struggle with OCD and anxiety started at college when I was 17. Life back then was something to be tolerated. I was low on confidence, depressed, anxious and more often than not drunk. But fortunately for me I found a way through and in my late twenties I started to find out about anxiety and what I could do beat it. Well it turned out paradoxically that trying to ´beat it´ was in fact part of the problem. The most important word I came across in my recovery was acceptance. But as i´m sure you´re aware telling people to accept their anxiety is fine in theory, but in reality it can be extremely hard for someone with anxiety to just ´accept it´. That´s exactly how I felt so I decided to start practicing acceptance by putting myself in situations I was afraid of. One of my biggest fears in my twenties was public speaking, so I would deliberately seek out opportunities to speak in public, starting off smaller, but graduating to more challenging experiences. By gradually exposing myself to my fear like this I learnt that it was ok to feel anxiety and that nervousness before public speaking is completely normal and can actually help your performance. Even today I continue to practice this, with my latest exposure being performing improv comedy at a local theatre.

Time to get out there?

With a background in outdoor pursuits and a degree in Outdoor Education I decided to start incorporating outdoor sports into my own recovery process. The outdoors provides incredible opportunities for people to experience fear in a positive way and to overcome it. When these experiences are integrated properly, they can be very helpful in overcoming anxiety problems. One example for me was mountain biking. There was an obstacle that I was afraid of doing, it just looked ridiculously dangerous and I presumed i´d never be able to do it. But by slowly building up my skills and gently pushing through my fears I was able to do the obstacle and later take on much bigger ones. It wasn´t that I didn´t feel any anxiety, quite the opposite, but I learnt how to accept the uncomfortable feelings and to just do the thing that was scaring me. Now the same obstacle doesn´t bother me at all. This is so applicable to anxiety in everyday life. We can learn through experience that it´s ok to feel these uncomfortable emotions without trying to get rid of them and that if we let them be or even face them head on, they will lose their power over us. This knowledge has been like gold dust for me and can make all the difference in overcoming anxiety problems.

If you´d like to know more, feel free to get in touch at robertjamescoaching@gmail.com. I coach people on how to start facing their fears in a controlled and safe way, enabling them to take the control back.

Me overcoming my fears.

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