Here at Climb Above Fear, it’s our mission to help people to overcome their acrophobia. We know all too well that there are moments when your fear can quickly become overwhelming. It’s at times like those when you need something in your arsenal to help you to get through the panic and push on.
Some of the most useful tools that can help you to manage these symptoms are relaxation techniques. They require no preparation and no equipment, and can help you to cope when your phobia rears its ugly head. In this guide, we’ll run through 4 easy techniques you can use at any time.
1. Ground yourself in 5-4-3-2-1
We’ll begin with a relaxation technique for acrophobia that uses all five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. It’s called the 5-4-3-2-1 technique: an easy-to-remember moniker for an exercise you can practise whenever and wherever you may be! Here’s all you need to do:
- Look around you and list five things that you can see. Try to pick out distinct things, such as a tree, an animal, a building, and so on.
- Next, notice four things that you can touch. If you’re struggling, this can be various parts of your body, or the clothes you’re wearing.
- Listen out for three things that you can hear. Anything goes, from your car engine to someone typing to the music you’re listening to.
- Almost there! List two things that you can smell. If you’re outside, this might be the fresh scent of grass, or if indoors, an air freshener.
- Finally, focus on one thing that you can taste. This can be anything from toothpaste and chewing gum to coffee or a snack!
Because this exercise engages all of your senses, it diverts your attention away from your fears and the negative thoughts that can accompany them. In turn, it enables you to reconnect with the present moment and reduces your stress.
2. Relax your muscles
Another technique that can help to relieve the anxiety brought about by a fear of heights is progressive muscle relaxation. This name may sound intimidating to first timers, but don’t be perturbed: it couldn’t be simpler to carry out!
To get started, breathe in while contracting one muscle group in your body. Hold this for around 5-10 seconds, then breathe out and release the tension.
You can do this for as long as you need to with as many different muscle groups as you choose. Typically, progressive muscle relaxation involves carrying out this same technique with every muscle group in your body. Many people start with their hands or feet, then work inwards towards the core.
3. Visualise a calm place
When you’re in a stressful situation, you might wish that you had an escape route. However, you might not have realised that your mind can provide the getaway that you’ve been looking for. Enter visualisation.
As the name suggests, this involves visualising a place in your mind. Ideally, this should be somewhere that you find calming—where you will easily be able to unwind. It doesn’t matter if this is somewhere that exists in real life or just in your imagination, as long as it’s relaxing to you.
Once you’ve started forming this image in your head, picture that place in as much detail as you can. While you do so, make sure to breathe slowly and deeply: in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Practising this for around 10 to 20 minutes can help you to improve your focus and relieve the symptoms of your acrophobia.
4. Just breathe
A couple of our other relaxation techniques have touched upon the importance of breathing. There’s a good reason for it: according to the Better Health Channel, our breathing patterns change when we are under stress.
The body’s stress response sees us breathing more quickly and in a more shallow fashion. This means that we’re not properly taking oxygen into our lungs and breathing out carbon dioxide. Doing so can exacerbate the physical symptoms of stress.
Fortunately, this is something that we’re able to control simply by altering the way that we breathe. There are a whole host of easy breathing techniques that you can try, such as:
- Breathe in through one nostril while holding the other closed. Hold your breath for a few seconds. Then, switch and breathe out through the other nostril.
- Box breathing—inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and repeat.
- Inhale for 2-3 seconds, pause, and then exhale, making sure your breath out is twice as long as your breath in.
These are just a handful of breathing techniques for anxiety that work not only to tackle a fear of heights, but a range of different conditions. Give them a try and watch the stress melt away.
Getting professional help
While the techniques we’ve listed in this article are incredibly useful in a difficult situation, they don’t tackle the root causes of acrophobia. So, if you find that your fear of heights is interfering with your ability to live a normal life from day to day, it could be time to seek out expert advice.
In partnership with our sister site ManageMinds, Climb Above Fear offers a dedicated therapy programme for people with a acrophobia. Working with one of our registered professionals, you’ll be able to discuss your phobia and gain the coping techniques you need to live a life free from fear.