Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Zipping beyond my comfort zone

In my more than 1 year in Recovery I’ve learned that life is not always comfortable. This is obvious to most people, but nervous persons have a tendency to continuously crave comfort—and overreact in uncomfortable situations. But I’ve discovered that the key to growth is tolerating this discomfort and recognizing that feelings can be distressing but not dangerous.

I recently decided that living outside my comfort zone once and a while might be a good opportunity to practice my Recovery skills. So last week when I was on vacation I decided to try “zip lining,” a type of outdoor adventure/recreation in which you slide down a line while strapped in a harness. The line is attached to trees and the experience allows you to see the forest from a new perspective—from hundreds of feet in the air.

This was not something I had to do, but it’s something I wanted to do. I decided to bear the discomfort and made plans to take a 4-hour zip line tour. I made the reservations weeks in advance, so I had plenty of time to work it up, but I used secure thinking to tell myself I would have a good time.

When the day finally arrived, I experienced tunnel vision, sweaty palms, and a racing heartbeat as I drove to the site. After a short orientation and gearing up I felt nervous about the upcoming experience. Yet I reminded myself that anticipation is usually worse than realization. I acknowledged that I was uncomfortable—but that these distressing feelings were not dangerous. And my friends in Recovery had reminded me earlier that these sensations were average for anyone trying out an activity like this.

My first zip experience was indeed scary yet exhilarating at the same time. I felt uncomfortable at the beginning of each zip line, but enjoyed the experience despite some discomfort. Before Recovery I would have allowed these feelings to prevent me from even considering participating in this type of activity. I gave myself a hearty endorsement for braving, tolerating, and enduring discomfort. It was truly a growth experience for me. I don’t think I’m ready to take up skydiving next, but by moving my muscles I learned I can work through discomfort.


expwoman said...

That is so cool! I was just talking with my therapist today about how I get freaked out by feeling anxious, and the harder I try to make the feelings go away, the worse it gets. I'm impressed you got in there and experienced the anxiety in service of actually choosing an exhilarating experience.

Nervous Girl said...

You can really endorse. It seems that it would be pretty average to have symptoms before doing something like that. Last year, we rode a ski lift, something I had never done before, but zip lining sounds much more thrilling. You did some high average spotting, too.

Doug said...

Thank you for your comments! NervousGirl, yes, I told myself that these feelings are indeed average for this experience, and that helped removed the exceptionality. In fact, I talked with some of the other folks there who confirmed that they were nervous too. Expwoman, once you accept, truly accept, that these feelings are distressing but not dangerous their power over your life will be dramatically weakened! :) The symptoms may take a while to subside, but you won't fret about them, and that helps tremendously.

Tina said...

Hi there,
I came across your blog while trying to find ways to just deal and live with anxiety. I was very encouraged by your blog as I have been trying to just live life and not constantly examine my feelings and feel anxious about them. I agree about the part of your entry with just accepting that life uncomfortable. When my therapist used to tell me this I didn't really understand but now it makes sense. Keep updating!

Doug said...

Thank you, Tina. Check out Recovery's Web site and see if there is a meeting in your area. Or if not you can participate in a phone meeting. Recovery works!!