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How to Overcome Anxiety and Perform at a Higher Level Through Adventure
From:
Brandon Hensinger -- Global Vice President of Yikon Genomics Brandon Hensinger -- Global Vice President of Yikon Genomics
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Sunday, March 22, 2020

 

How to Overcome Anxiety and Perform at a Higher Level Through Adventure

Perched on my toes on a small 1 inch rock edge, holding an even smaller edge with my fingers, I was about 800 feet in to a 2100 foot climb that we had spent all day so far climbing. My belayer (the person holding the rope), was below me about 120 feet down on a large ledge where we had just had some lunch and took a small break. Everything was going great, except that now, on this small edge, I had not been able to place any protection for about 60 feet (Lead climbing means that you climb with the rope trailing behind you, placing protection in the rock as you go, and using a carabiner to clip the rope in to that protection. Between the person holding the rope for you, and the protection, that protection will catch you should you fall. So if you place a piece of protection and are 10 feet above it, when you fall you’d fall 20 feet plus stretch in the rope. Read more about lead climbing here if you want to).

Here I was looking at a 120+ foot fall, with a huge ledge approximately 120 feet below me. I could not climb back down safely, so I had to make a decision. If I was consumed with anxiety, I would freeze in that spot…surely getting to the point of exhaustion quickly meaning that I would fail and fall. If I made the decision to retreat and climb down, that was even riskier because of the terrain I had just climbed over. There was a huge crack about 15 feet up that I could place protection in, and that would make the climbing even easier.

So what exactly did I need to do? I had 3 choices:

  1. Let anxiety and fear take over and freeze in place, ensuring that I’d fall eventually
  2. Dangerously try to climb back down
  3. Keep going, pushing through the nerves, to where I know I’d be safer

It’s easy to read all of this and say that #3 is the decision that anyone would make. But in the moment, when you are terrified and anxious, it’s hard to think rationally.

I did choose #3. I had a conversation with myself and said, “I can climb the next 15 feet because I know I can climb at this difficulty, and in reality it’s only 2.5 body lengths more. I can do this.” I also planned the route out because I could see the holds that would get me to that spot. I moved ahead, focusing on each hold and each foot placement as I carefully made my way to the crack. I didn’t think about what was next, I thought about each movement. And I made it. I pushed through the fear and finished that climb.

As I write this and relive that moment, I am literally sweating. It was a terrifying moment for me and one I hope to never experience again.

I have learned SO much from that moment and many other moments in the mountains about how to deal with anxiety.

One of the greatest truths I’ve learned is:

Anxiety makes us think irrationally, and puts us in a state of inaction. It often keeps us in a place that is worse, even though in our minds we are protecting ourselves. Learning to recognize anxiety and deal with it allows us to push through irrational fears, trains our brain to not respond as irrationally next time, and allows us to have greater success.

Think about any moment in your life where you felt anxious. I often experience anxiety as a result of a large daily workload in my work. Sometimes, I look at what is before me and I think “There is just too much to do.” But when I realize that thinking about it will get me no where, and that time spent actually working will eliminate those items, I push on, focusing on 1 action at a time, just like I did on that cliff.

Do you experience anxiety in your job or life? Maybe you are anxious about

  • Your workload
  • An upcoming deadline
  • An unhappy customer
  • A demanding boss
  • A problematic employee
  • Unexpected bills
  • Debt
  • Conflict with family or friends
  • An inury
  • A sickness

The list could go on.

It’s important to realize that anxiety will do NOTHING for you. Worrying and freezing in a state of inaction will never help you move past the things that are making you anxious. Here is what you need to do to get out of that state of anxiety and perform better:

  1. Analyze your options
  2. Recognize that your anxiety and fear is irrational
  3. Commit to making the best decision that will get you closer to your desired outcome
  4. Come up with a quick plan of how you will handle the next steps
  5. Focus on the next step. Don’t try to think about every step…you’ll just get anxious again.
  6. Take action. Take the next step

In my case, I made the choice that would allow me to complete the climb…but the main reason is because it was the BEST choice. It had the best chances of me succeeding AND surviving. Not only did I want to complete the climb, but I wanted to return home to my family safely. My decision to keep going was based on that.

The mountains can teach amazing things. It has helped me learn to think clearly, to be in the moment, and to push through anything. I attribute so much of my success to what I have learned in the past 22 years as a climber…and I am certain I will continue to learn more.

 
Allentown, PA
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