Facing the Fear of Falling: Overcoming Stress & Anxiety
It was time for the training-wheels to come off, literally. With his helmet fastened and standing next to his two-wheeler, my son had a mixture of pride and panic on his face. Like every parent that has done this before, I told my son, “just pedal, I’m holding on to the back of your seat so you won’t fall."
The logical part of his brain says, “you’ve got to be crazy to try this.” Yet, amazingly, the calming voice of a parent overpowers the grips of anxiety and stress. With just a little reminder of the parent’s hand holding the back of the bike, a child’s nerves will be soothed to the point where, even though they are afraid, they can trust that we will catch them if they fall.
As I have told many of my clients, “children are mirrors, which adults can look at to learn about themselves.” Whenever we face stress, anxiety or fear it is important to realize that is not just a silly feeling to ignore. Most often, the physiological responses (such as sweaty palms, shaky nerves and tightness in the chest) are rooted in something real – where the brain is telling us to be careful and avoid a situation, which is flagged for risk or danger.
Nevertheless, it is not realistic to stay in hiding and avoid uncomfortable circumstances. How then, can we move past those crippling feelings of angst?
For the child on the bike, their comfort comes from knowing that a parent’s hand is holding them upright. However, there is that singular moment when a child is pedaling furiously and turns around to see their parent in the distance, chasing behind with a big smile. That moment is filled with exhilaration and accomplishment. Yet, it is tinged with an element of intense fear. If the fear is given a voice – the child will panic and fall to the ground. However, if they just keep pedaling, the anxieties will quickly dissipate.
That moment represents a critical epiphany in the child’s development when he or she realizes abilities that were previously unknown. It is the moment when they understand that the parent’s support was only required to get them started. Now, however, they are free to shed the fear and enjoy life.
So too, with adults who are afraid to venture outside of their comfort zones and confront anxiety-inducing situations. A starting point, from which to embark is having faith. For some it will be faith in their own abilities, upbringing and education; while for others, it will be a rock solid faith in God.
If we could only see the hand that is holding firmly to the seat of our challenges, steadying and supporting us as we go – it reminds us to shed our fears and just go for it. Yet, it is important to be aware that once we step out of our comfort zone, a moment will arrive, and we look back to realize that we are going at it solo. That fearful moment presents two possible paths: It could be the child who, despite now being able to ride independently, just panics at the thought of being alone and consequently, falls of the bike. Or it could be one who stays focused and just keeps pedaling while enjoying the exhilaration they’ve earned through their accomplishments.
Whether that steadying hand belongs to a parent, friend or God, we should not be afraid to ever take a first step. For once we do so, even if we may fall at first, we can keep getting back up with their outstretched hand to aid us. Remember, the goal in achieving our own success, is not to take their hand with us everywhere we go. Rather, it is for the hand to set us free and proudly watch us sail through life, navigate the obstacles and utilize all the talents, skills and blessings that we have been given to fulfill our dreams.
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