How to face the zip wire when you’re terrified of heights.

A little bit about me…

So let’s start with a disclaimer, I am not an activity instructor. My name’s Siobhan and I actually work as a designer at NAYC & ACUK. I often go up our activity towers to take photos and videos of people on the activities (even that makes my legs wobble), but a couple of months ago I went on the zip wire for the first time and here are some of the things that helped me face my fear. I hope it helps!

The day I realised I am not cut out to be the next Spiderman…

I went to the cinema recently and watched the new Spiderman film (on a sidenote, it’s definitely worth a watch). I was sat in my seat, enjoying the excitement of the movie when the camera shot suddenly changed. Now I was looking at an aerial view of the city, thousands of feet up in the air. And that was all it took…my legs were suddenly jelly and my tummy was doing summersaults. I knew full well I was sat down, in a cinema, with zero chance of falling but my mind was playing havoc. 

Right now, you’re probably either thinking, “this girl is crazy” or “I can relate.”

If you’re in the “I can relate” category, you will be happy to know that you are in good company, 1 in 3 people say they experience some distress when it comes to heights. That means that even if you don’t struggle with heights, you probably know someone who does. It also means that if you’re a teacher or leader taking a group on a residential, there is almost definitely going to be someone in your group who can’t face the zip wire or is terrified to abseil. 

This if for you!

Whether you are scared of facing the zip wire or you want to support someone in your group who is. Here are my top tips on ‘How to face the zip wire when you’re terrified on heights’.

  • Let your instructor know you’re nervous.

We have an amazing team of instructors that know how you’re feeling, (believe it or not, many of our Firm Foundations Trainee Outdoor Instructorscome onto the course terrified of heights) and will support you to do everything they can to help you enjoy your experience. 

  • Let someone who’s more confident, go first. 

The last thing you want is to have a couple of people in the group who are scared and the first person they watch go down the zip wire is just as scared as they are. Let someone who’s done it before or is pretty confident show the group how much fun it is to encourage others to have a go. 

  • Go next!

Don’t stand around waiting, if you’re scared, the best thing you can do is just go for it. Don’t give your mind time to think more about how scared you are. 

  • Don’t look down

This is always the most popular advice when it comes to heights but my slight twist on it would be don’t look down, but do look to the end of the zip wire…let’s face it, you know that you’re high up and so there is going to be some temptation to see quite how high. But keep your eyes on the prize, that’s where you want to end up. There’s always an instructor waiting near the end of the zip wire to help you get down and so focus on them. 

  • Sit down

I was always scared of how far I would drop before the rope caught the slack. Luckily with our kit there is barely any drop, but if you are nervous then sit down. By sitting down you’ll take the slack out of the rope meaning that when you push off the tower you won’t feel a drop. 

  • Tell yourself you can do this

Tell yourself you can do this and then do it, no more thinking, no more worrying, just do it!

  • Do it again!

The first time is always the most difficult, you’ve done it once, now you can enjoy the second time around! Our sessions normally have multiple opportunities for groups to go down the zip wire, so make the most of it, keep going until your instructor says the time’s up. 

Photo by Judeus Samson on Unsplash

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