Climbing is a mental activity!

Hi climbers!

Today I want to share with you psychologist and climber Madeleine Eppensteir’s recommendations about specific mental techniques to overcome the fear of falling when climbing.

Climbing is a very mentally demanding activity. Our mind choses whether we reach our goals or not: if we climb higher or give up. Climbing is basically about being aware of our boundaries and crossing them. The fear of falling, no matter your level of expertise, is a primal human instinct and at the same time the biggest mental irritation every climber has experienced during a climbing session.

So what can we do to face this natural, irrational fear so that it does not hinder our performance results?

Get used to fall!

It might sound strange, but if you want to take control of your fear of falling, you have to get used to falling. Something cannot be learned if it is never tried and trained. Falling it is not an exception! A good exercise is trying to implement little falls in every climbing session and thinking about emotions you have just felt. It is essential to learn and improve your ability for handling stressful situations. How did you feel in the moment you let go? What occurred afterwards? What was ok about it and what can still be improved? You might find out that the falling itself wasn’t so scary after all. That nothing actually happened. The most important thing is to become conscious about your thoughts and feelings and work on them.

Improve your concentration!

Our concentration negatively impact on our climbing performance when we are afraid of falling. However, as soon as we shift our focus and concentration towards the possibility of falling we do not focus the attention on the actual moves and climbing anymore, which actually makes falling more likely to happen. In psychology, this mechanism is known as “self-fulfilling prophecy” -Madeleine affirms – which means we work towards our own expectations. So next time you climb, try to climb following the rule of doing your best and always focusing on the next moves that are coming.

Enhance your self-efficacy!

You can also overcome fear by enhancing your self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is – Madeleine says – the knowledge we have of our own skills and how we can apply them during climbing – In simple words is the fact we know what to expect of ourselves. It is crucial not to overestimate ourselves either in a positive or negative terms. Instead, we should learn to get a realistic self-concept of ourselves. The better we learn to classify our capabilities the less chance we have of being “surprised” on the route and the better we can recall our capabilities. This is a key point because fear often comes from new, unknown situations that we don’t know how to manage. Knowing what to expect of ourselves can really be useful.

Do breathing exercises!

To conclude, another tip that can be also really useful to menage stressful situations is breathing. Breathing calmly can lower your heart rate and make you judge a situation more sensibly. After all, we are considerably more likely to be injured or killed in a car accident than when we are on a mountain! Doing breathing exercises outside of climbing can make us ready for when we get into problematic situations and there is a real possibility of falling. It helps us to recall our breathing techniques and in turn, help us cope these situations more sensibly.

To have more information on this topic visit the interesting article on UKC blog  and leave a comment about your own experience!

Francesca Berti


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