Set Your Inner Adventure Junkie Free:
How to Cope With Setbacks, Fear, and Anxiety
By Caitlin Evans
The word adventure has a jolly good ring to it, doesn’t it?
There you are, climbing a mountain, struggling through the fast-melting snow, the weight of your backpack pinning you down to the face of the cliff.
Or there you are again, riding the perfect wave as the sun sets over the peaks of a dormant volcano.
There you are again, walking into Santiago de Compostela, having just trekked over four weeks, exhausted but triumphant, sporting an amazing tan and an enviable collection of blisters.
Is your heart beating a bit faster? Can you feel the elements on your face? Ready to go out and conquer the world?
If what you’re thinking right now is “I’d rather stay home with my favorite mug and watch the Breaking Bad movie on Netflix” rather than “sounds amazing, let me go pack a bag,” I’m with you 100%.
It can be daunting, terrifying, absolutely paralyzing, this business of leaving your comfort zone, and taking on an adventure. But you know, deep down, that it’s going to be absolutely worth conquering your fears.
Let’s see what you can do for your inner adventure junkie, and set it loose on the world.
Rational vs. irrational
On the road to overcoming our fears of adventuring into the unknown, the first thing we’ll need to establish is the difference between rational and irrational fears.
Irrational fears are the ones that have no basis in reality. We might be afraid of swimming in the ocean, because we believe the currents will drown us, or that some sort of sea creature will attack us the second our feet leave the sand.
Our irrational fears have convinced our brains that the second we face them – we will die.
These kinds of fears prevent us from doing things: swimming, climbing, traveling, flying. They may have once had their basis in reality (yes, there is a chance we might drown), but have since morphed into vast monsters we can’t cope with anymore.
On the other hand, we have rational fears – the fears that have kept us alive as a species.
Let’s return to the drowning example from above. It’s true that we might drown in the ocean if we swim in it. People do every year. And having a healthy dose of fear and respect towards nature is good for us. This kind of fear keeps us alive – we won’t go swimming when the waves are too strong. We don’t swim in treacherous waters, or go too far from the shore if we’re not excellent swimmers. We know our limits and stick to them. This is what keeps us alive.
If we had no fear, we’d be playing with lions and touching poisonous spiders left and right.
Fight vs. flight
Secondly, we need to understand our human mechanism of facing and fighting fear.
When placed in a dangerous situation, our brains and bodies go into fight or flight mode: we’re either going to fight whatever it is that’s attacking us, or we’re going to flee and try to get away from the danger.
This is a deeply rooted response that has kept us evolving and safe for millennia.
What happens with irrational fear and anxiety is that our minds think we’re facing danger even when we’re perfectly safe.
For example, we might get anxious when we need to board a plane. Our anxiety can work us into such a state that we’re completely convinced we have seconds to live, even though the plane is gliding through the air quite smoothly.
Our rational fear (a fear of falling to our fiery deaths) has given way to an irrational fear (and we are now convinced that the mere act of being on an airplane is deadly dangerous). A stumbling block to our inner adventure junkie for sure!
Going forward vs. sliding backward
Combating our fears and anxieties is a challenge and adventure in itself. However, overcoming the setbacks that are keeping you from living the life you want is possible: you just have to work on it.
Rather than giving in to the thoughts that keep preventing you and holding you back, make an effort to:
- Acknowledge your fears and give them names. Once you’re able to identify your fears, you can imagine your worst-case scenario.
- Face your worst. When you know what it is you fear the most, you can work towards overcoming it. And once you realize you’re still alive after having just faced that, you can live a life free from your fear.
- Always be prepared. Like a true scout, you should never rush into any adventure heedlessly and without any prep. The reason people have fun and stay safe on adventures is the thinking ahead that has gone into it.
Let me give you a rather basic example: if you’re going hiking in the winter, you will want to pack some thermal underwear, whereas if you’re going hiking in the summer, you’ll need to choose your hiking shorts so that they allow you to move all day, and stay comfy. The same gear will simply not work. No matter what adventure you’re taking yourself on, prepare yourself for every eventuality – this will help your fears significantly.
The skill of acceptance
The one thing you need to remember about facing any setback in life or in nature, and battling any anxiety or fear, is that you are not a weaker or lesser person for doing so.
We often make ourselves feel small when we feel fear. However, bravery and magnitude can only be achieved in the face of fear. How can anyone be brave when they’re not afraid?
The key to overcoming these negative thoughts and feelings lies in accepting their existence and working towards your goal with them in tow. It may be more difficult, but that just means that the road will be more challenging – not that you can’t make it to the finish line.
Don’t dwell on your past setbacks – look forward to your future successes. We are all imperfect, and no one can have nothing but good days all the time.
The power to change
Always remember that you hold all the power: no matter what life throws at you, you can accept it, learn from it, and grow.
No matter what kind of adventure you seek – go chase after it. Hike that trail, climb that mountain, swim those seas. Yes, setbacks will likely come. But how you face them is all that matters. Showing great courage in the face of overwhelming odds is the stuff medals are awarded for.
Face your fears, no matter how daunting they may seem right now – you will quickly see how rapidly they can diminish when you bar your teeth at them.
Ready to apply these tips to realize your inner adventure junkie? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.