This March break was my first time really skiing. I’m not counting the time my husband took me down a diamond hill…that time I took one look at the summit and I immediately began to hyperventilate…quickly followed by a full-blown panic attack. As I tumbled miserably down the hill, tears filling my eyes as my sweet husband graciously snow ploughed me down the hill. This one event perpetuated my Fear of Downhill skiing to this day. With fear there are only 2 options: 1) you can chose to run from it, or 2) you can choose to face it head on. With skiing my instincts lean towards the running away option. The problem is that freedom in life is actually found right through the fear. That’s right, right down the middle of that ice-glazed mountain, snow-plowing your way down it. That’s where you live life grand!
Who’s Fear is this?
I face fear on a daily basis with my patients, life-threatening fear. The breast cancer diagnosis, a suspected diagnosis of Lyme’s, Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis, and life-long autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Lupus. I stare these conditions in the face, encouraging and mentoring my patients to do the same. So then why my personal fear with regards to downhill skiing? Ironically as we were driving towards the snow hill I thought to myself: “Besides my husbands ill-fated attempt to get me loving the sport he and our kids adore, I really didn’t have any other reason to fear it so much.” My Fear wasn’t mine, it was actually superimposed on me by my mother, who had broken her leg her first time skiing as a 16-year-old. During our entire childhood, my mother prevented my sister and I from going downhill skiing, repeating her dreadful event to us each time it was discussed. In essence, she spread and integrated her fear and experience into our subconscious and conscious minds. The thing is that having grown up in northern Ontario, I quite adored being out in the snow amidst the evergreens and all the wonders of winter. Ironically, all of us have many of these integrated “others’” fears. When we look into these fears, we can realize that they may not be ours to own. In the case of a cancer or auto-immune diagnosis, many times our on healthcare providers can seed a negative outcome into our minds, making our worst fears come true because they give them power. I refuse to ever do that to my patients, because when it comes to health I know there is always something that you can do to make it better.
Fear is Paralyzing, it stops us from acting.
This paralysis stops our progress. All the physical sensations we experience with fear, like the sinking sensation in your stomach, the difficulty swallowing, the shallow breaths, the sweat that just suddenly appears and the extra wrinkles that bore into your forehead with panic written all over your face. All these multiply the mental impact of our “worst case scenario” and propel us to turn the other way and run …ultimately we don’t face our fears.
On the hill, with my instructor first and then with my loving husband, I came to realize some very important points about facing our fears. I will use them as guideposts to moving through adversity:
- Get Coached– Unless you are the first person to discover skiing, that ship has passed. Find someone who already knows how to do it better than you (preferably not your better half). Having a guide, teacher, Doctor, mentor, Coach, significantly shortens your learning time, which means you can achieve your goals faster, which is what we all want.
- OWN the now– I choose to not live in my mother’s fears, I honor her fears but they are not mine to carry. I choose to live in my own life, now. Look at what thoughts, patterns or preconceived notions you have created in the past and taken on from others, cleanse the ones that don’t serve you. Do this every time one comes up.
- MIND your mind- If I’m going down the hill thinking, “OMG I’m going to fall and break my leg!” Well I hate to break it to you (Hehe), but that’s likely exactly what will happen. Where your mind goes energy flows, and your fate will follow. Think exactly WHAT you want to happen, not the worst-case scenario.” I will glide easily down this hill and deal with all adversities one bump at a time.
- LOOK where you WANT to GO– When you look straight down at your skies, you end up eating snow. Plan your Descent (or Ascent) and look where you want to go, one small hill at a time. When you look up you will notice you skied down a MASSIVE Hill!
- Moguls Happen!– If you haven’t skied and haven’t experienced a Mogul, it’s an obstacle course made of piles of snow that can mess you up bad. You can’t do much about them when you’re facing them, except be flexible and go with the flow. Lean back and keep your legs flexible, don’t get rigid. Many of us, when faced with adversity seize up…. don’t seize, this is exactly the time to go with the FLOW!
- DIG in To the GROUND– When you’re turning on the hills, you dig one foot into the snow while maintaining weight on the other. In essence “Grounding yourself’. Know where both feet are and stand your ground, but also be flexible enough to give way between one foot and the other, more flow!
- Get in your CENTRE– When you find your center of balance and sit into it, you lose your fear. Because you are exactly where you need to be in your center of comfort. Most of us are in our head, where we are flighty and unable focus on being in our bodies. Skiing puts you in your body, you have no other option.
- SNOWPLOW into the FEAR– Go Straight down the mountain and have faith that the more you plough through it the more “in control” you are. Face the fear, straight on, freedom is on the other side.
- FALLING Happens, Get UP – Falling happens, even my husband, who is an avid skier whipped out a couple of times (maybe to make me feel better! A pity Fall!). But don’t take a negative attitude, get up, shake off the snow and think “onward and upward”! (Or in this case downward!)
- Practice, Practice, Practice – The only way we get better at anything, and something I am constantly preaching, is practice…after all practice makes progress. It is the mother of all skills, and everything in life is a skill, from being healthy, to being a doctor, to flying down the snow hill.
Once you face your fear, you experience true and ultimate freedom. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to be sitting on top of an enormous hill name “massif” in Charlevoix Quebec, and to stare down the hill and where the earth stopped and the St. Laurence River began surrounded by gigantic evergreen pines and snow as fluffy and white as clouds, with the cold brisk air refreshingly biting my skin. The adrenaline pumping through my veins and my focus on the moment, on the here and the now. I thought of nothing else and felt so free and alive.
Fear is the ultimate challenge. Use these principles as they apply through all aspects of our lives, from the breast cancer diagnosis, to Parkinson’s or Lupus or Lyme’s disease. You are in charge: learn how to ground yet flow, take the moguls with grace, fall and get up, and get a great coach to lead you down the right path. If you need a coach, we’re here – the Naturopathic Doctors at Sanas Health Practice, we live and breath by these principles. Sometimes we all need a reminder, get the most you can out of your fears and choose to learn and not be paralyzed from the lessons of life.