What do nudist colonies, biker bars, zip lining, and air travel have in common? They are all suggestions from my well intentioned friends when I asked them to give me ideas … things to do in my new risk taking adventure.
Sometimes, life swings us into ruts … periods of inaction or immobility. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten caught up in the safety and security of the mundane, the apathy of routine, and I find life just doesn’t hold the same passion, the same spark it used to.
Novelty is the spice of life—new people, new situations. But when we are involved in long-term relationships, long-term jobs, mortgage payments that will take twenty-five years or more to pay off … things can get … well boring. They drag. The fun gets sucked out of it all.
Risk taking brings back the excitement. It fills us with passion and vitality. It throws our world upside down. It shakes things up, enlivens us. But taking a risk, trying something new—something perhaps out of our comfort zone—also takes courage.
I suffer from anxiety. Always have. It’s just something I live with. But I’ve noticed as time goes on, my ‘threshold’ for stress is getting lower and lower. My ability to handle multiple things thrown my way has gotten smaller and smaller. Little things that would have slid off my back, like water off a duck, now stick, and congeal, manifesting as headaches, IBS, or muscle tension.
I have big heart-pounding, stomach-clenching, hands-sweating fears around bridges, ferries, and airplanes. I don’t want to be under a bridge (it could collapse on me). I don’t want to be on the bridge (it could collapse and I would fall down with it. I don’t want to be on a ferry trapped in my car if the boat goes down. And I certainly do not want to be trapped in an airplane, since the idea of plummeting thirty thousand feet to a fiery death has no attraction for me whatsoever.
We all have ‘big’ fears, but when even little things start to throw us for a loop … that’s when we have to examine our lives and consider … how can I stop this from getting out of hand.
One way to do that is to desensitize ourselves to the fear, the anxiety. If you are afraid of snakes, you might start by looking at a picture of a snake, then imagining/visualizing yourself in a pet store with a small garter snake tucked safely behind glass. Next steps would be to actually walk into the pet store. Just being in the same building as snakes, then maybe walking to where you can actually see them, then one day, ultimately, holding one. For people who are afraid of snakes, even the thought of that final step is terrifying.
Risk taking involves building our ‘Risk Muscle’. This isn’t something we can just jump into—I for one am not about to jump out of a plane. You have to start small, build your muscle one step at a time. Baby steps. I may start with imaging myself on a bridge, then work up to actually standing under the bridge, watching my breath, in and out, in and out, in and out, until the wave of anxiety passes. And it will, if I can stay there long enough. Every strong emotion has a wave value/expression to it. It ebbs and flows. Anger, sadness, grief, even panic attacks, come on strong, peak, then reside. The trick is learning how to ride the wave.
So I have a plan. I’m going to build my risk muscle slowly. Starting small … little things like, maybe dying my hair another colour. I’ve been blonde … well, since I was born. Maybe trying something I wouldn’t normally ever eat that doesn’t compromise my gastric sensitivities.
Ultimately I’d like to get on a plane and go somewhere. This is not to say I haven’t been on a plane – I’ve been on two – each twenty years apart – and each time terrifying. But I did it, and I’d like to try and do it again.
But I need your help. I need ideas, suggestions. What are some risks I can take? What are you afraid of? What would you like to try to overcome? Maybe you might like to try the challenge with me?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.