So, it happened… I jumped out of an airplane!
Turns out skydiving can teach you lots of invaluable lessons about anxiety and life.
I never thought in a million years that’s something I would EVER do. EVER! After all, when someone struggles with anxiety, launching themselves out of a plane usually isn’t top of their to-do list! So why’d I do it? Because I know that we can challenge outdated beliefs to alleviate anxiety and ease depression. So this year for my birthday, I decided I really needed to shake things up.
My internal dialogue sounded a bit like this:
“Why would you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?”
“Why would you risk your life?”
“What if you have a panic attack and pass out before the jump?”
“What if you crash into the ground, break your body, and die?”
(Dramatic, I know.) All of these questions, of course, come from a place of fear and anxiety.
Lately I’ve been struggling with my own anxiety and stress by working with the negative voices inside my head and proving them wrong. So I figured I’d face my fears head on and go for the jump!
So, this is the story of why I decided to jump out of a “perfectly good airplane” and what I learned about myself, my life, and the anxiety and fears I’ve always had in the process.
To me, birthdays are the start of a brand new year.
My birthday is October 30. This year I decided to spend it celebrating up in Sedona with a friend. I really wanted to do something epic to celebrate! (Birthdays are my absolute favorite.) I knew I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to do something special.
I ended up going for a helicopter ride! Something that’s been on my bucket list for a long time. It was a pretty big decision for me because I’ve always been afraid of heights, and I really wasn’t sure how I would respond to the situation. But I knew I had to try! If I could just remember to breathe when I got scared, I knew I could make it through…
Turns out it was sensational, exhilarating, breathtaking and so much more! It was an absolutely an amazing decision, and I’m so glad I made it!
We spent almost 30 minutes in the air flying over the amazing Red Rocks and Vortex sites, an experience I’ll always remember. I didn’t get scared; I didn’t have a panic attack; I didn’t really even get nervous! There was pure excitement and joy in my heart before, during, and after the flight! I was so grateful I got to kick off my birthday and my new year in such a special way.
I was also really proud of myself for testing my boundaries, trying something I’d always wanted to do, and having such a healthy response to the experience. Given my history with anxiety and being fearful, I wasn’t sure I would have even made it through. I did it!
Now, I’ll get back into what lessons that experience taught me about anxiety and life, but what you need to know next is that my roommate has a birthday exactly one week after mine. We both LOVE to celebrate, and we’re both pretty intense. (I mean, we’re Scorpios after all.) So, when she heard about my birthday helicopter ride, she decided to book her own epic adventure the following week: skydiving!
I wasn’t planning to spend more money or do anything additional in the “epic” category for awhile. After all, I had just come off of a wonderful celebratory birthday week. But I did want to help my friend celebrate her big day, so I offered to take her for her jump and be there for moral support.
So one week after my birthday, we were celebrating my friend’s with a trip to Maricopa so she could jump out of a plane. And, I promise, that morning I really did have the best intentions to JUST go for moral support. I brought my computer with me and everything! That way I could do work while she got ready and waited for take off.
We arrived, went to check her in, and this amazing woman at the front desk casually asks me, “You want to jump with her?”
She caught me off guard! “Uhmmm…. I wasn’t planning on it.”
“Well, we have room, I promise you won’t regret it.” She said. “It’s incredible. I know you’ll love it.”
She said it with such honest conviction, I was intrigued.
“Can you offer me a good price?” I asked.
“I can honor the same Groupon price your friend got, no problem.”
“Okay, then, F*** It, I’m in!”
(Oh, and if you want to see how ridiculous I looked jumping out of an airplane, you can check out my skydiving video HERE)
What Skydiving Taught Me about Anxiety and Life
Historically, our conversation would have gone very, VERY differently. I would have said something like “Oh no… skydiving isn’t for me. I could never jump out of a plane.” Or maybe, “Oh, no thank you, I don’t think I’d make it. I’d probably pass out from fright before I could even get on the plane.” or a host of other ridiculous, shy, fearful comments I could have come up with.
BUT, the NEW Susan… the Susan who is standing up for herself, challenging the negative internal dialogue, testing limits and belief systems… this woman said YES. YES to LIFE and LIVING!!
I not only was able to successfully jump out of the plane (I mean, I was tandem and hooked onto someone, but still I had the option to cancel at anytime before the jump!), I LOVED the experience. I found it exhilarating, sensational, fantastic and absolutely thrilling!
Honestly, I cannot imagine NOT having done it. A part of me feels like I actually would have been jealous of my friend had I seen all her excitement and not felt that way myself yesterday.
So, what did this experience teach me? What lessons was I able to see and observe during my epic birthday celebrations?
First of all, I realized I’ve become hyper vigilant of what my internal dialogue is saying and I’m challenging my belief systems. And I’m grateful for this level of self-awareness!
We all have to watch our beliefs. One of the things I realized is that I had been so scared to go in a helicopter or go skydiving because my ex-husband was terrified of both. He always used to say “I’d never jump out of a perfectly good airplane” or “helicopters are just too dangerous and too prone to crashing”.
And when I really tuned into those voices in my head… I realized, it was his voice I heard, not mine. Those were HIS beliefs, not MINE.
How many of you out there are carrying around beliefs that aren’t yours? It’s incredible when you start to cultivate the level of awareness of where your thoughts are coming from. Are they from society? Parents? Spouses? Friends?
The key lesson here is, don’t let the fears/beliefs/judgments of others impede on your desires and your happiness… PERIOD. LET THAT SHIT GO. It’s not yours, it was never meant to be yours… let them keep that for themselves.
And the second lesson in all of this, is that LIFE IS TOO SHORT to not be LIVED FULLY.
I’ve spent so many years just surviving. Partly because, growing up in such chaos and turmoil, I needed to figure out my survival. However, now, I am safe and have ease of well-being and don’t have to worry about SURVIVAL. I am now at a place where I can LIVE and THRIVE.
This is a big mindset shift for me, and probably for many of you out there too.
When you struggle with chronic stress, anxiety, and/or depression, you’re constantly engaging your sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system. Not only is this exhausting all your energy, it is also keeping you in a state of just surviving.
Without proper rest and activation of your parasympathetic nervous system, you cannot enjoy LIVING and THRIVING.
In going through a few tumultuous months recently, I have been pulling lots of levers for coping mechanisms to bring my anxiety down. I’ve re-dedicated myself to my meditation practice, kept focused on my healthy diet, and have been incorporating lots of movement and nature therapy. And boy, has it paid off.
Because again, I can tell you, Susan from 4 months ago would NOT have gotten into a helicopter… and would NOT have EVER jumped out of an airplane.
And the biggest lesson with all of that, is ANYTHING is possible. And the biggest reward of these experiences is knowing I could overcome something I once thought was impossible because of the fears I was holding onto.
What Can You Take Away from My Experience?
If you want to be braver, bolder, more courageous, feel more joyful and grateful, the first step is developing self-awareness of where you are right NOW. Listen to your thoughts, tune into your heart… what are they telling you? How much of your internal dialogue is yours? How much is coming from others?
Once you can start to separate all the junk of others from your own truth, you can start to gain clarity and let go of things that may be fueling your stress, anxiety and depression.
From there, working with a coach (like myself), on healing your body and setting up your physiology & biochemistry for happiness goes a long way. The 1:1 support and expertise can help you to learn coping mechanisms and techniques unique to YOU.
Remember, YOU get to decide what your beliefs are. You get to choose what your actions and what you believe is possible in your life.
And I know you are capable of doing and being more than you’ve ever dreamed of!
So, regardless of what you decide to do from here, know that I’m here for you. I believe in you and your dreams, and I’m dedicated to your health, happiness and success always.
Wishing you all the courage, joy, and happiness one can have.