Some people jump from airplanes and have no fear at all. Other people overcome fear of skydiving by doing it over and over again. I personally didn’t think I was scared when I was about to make my first skydive. However, when I felt the wind pushing against my body and looked down, I got stuck and didn’t want to leave the airplane anymore. My instructor had to be patient and tell me what to do. After one minute, more or less, I started to move towards the door and get in position.
I believe I was able to overcome my fear because I was 100% trusted my skydiving instructor. He was with me for my entire ground school instruction, and me made me feel super comfortable sharing my thoughts and anxieties. Besides that, he kept calm, and with a strong voice of command, I never saw a trace of doubt on his face; and trust me, the sixty seconds that it took me to get out of that airplane was enough time to read everyone else there.
As I said before, my AFF instructors were the key during my AFF course. I’d not be jumping today if I hadn’t trusted those two guys. They managed to make me believe that if something went wrong during my jump, they would be there to save my life (in most case scenarios). I trusted them, and I still trust all the people who have something to teach me during my skydiving journey. I’m fortunate that I have had the chance to jump with amazing coaches and skydivers.
It doesn’t matter how many jumps any of us have done. In my opinion, excellent instructors with vast experience are essential for keeping us calm and focused on our skydives. They should help us to stay confident in what we already know and what we are about to learn or practice.
My Jump Number 241
I moved to California in 2015, and I started jumping my ass off. I was afraid to skydive and insecure until my jump number 25. From then on, nothing about jumping out of a perfectly good plane terrified me, until the day of jump number 241. Sometimes I get nervous or anxious–but not afraid–because of the kind of jump I’m doing or when I’m practicing something new.
But on that day, I remember looking outside the door, I was on the right side of the plane, and my group was the second group in the exit order. We were at around 10,000 feet, and my mind just froze. My thinking stopped, and when it came back, I was 100% sure I’d have a terrible malfunction. Thoughts raced through my head about my family, my life, my friends, and also how could I give a “simple guess thought” the power to change my life. One clear thought rose to the surface: “if I give these kinds of thoughts the power to make decisions in my life, I will never be able to live my life free again.”
I prayed – Nowadays, I always do this prayer before a jump. After 3 more gear checks, I asked my friend to check my pin. The jump was a blur–I don’t remember the jump, it was a long time ago. However, I’ll never forget that feeling. I’ve never had any issues with fear of skydiving after I faced and overcame my fear that day.
Is skydiving for me?
Unfortunately, I don’t have that answer. What I know is that skydiving is for me, and I love it. However, only you can know if skydiving is for you. You are the only one responsible for your decisions. I’ve already thought, many times, about why I still keep skydiving. Many times I didn’t find the answer until I was back in the plane with my group and –boom– I know why I’m still doing it.
Even though we can do skydiving safely, we always need to remember that skydiving is not a safe sport, and we all should have respect for that. Sometimes respect comes in the form of fear. Many accidents happen because people misjudge their flying and under canopy ability. The fear can help to keep you and the people around you safe. There is no shame in talking about fear, anxiety, concern, or even in being afraid of something. I feel it is much worse to create an unnecessary situation that puts lives in danger than to work with fear in order to produce a good outcome.
How to Overcome Fear
1. Respect yourself
If you are afraid of something, usually, your brain is connected to the moment at a higher level. You will be aware of any dangerous situations and be able to make faster decisions. Fear will never go away, we need to embrace it and use the positiveness that comes with it.
2. Breathing techniques
I always tell myself and students to breathe. Around 8.000, feet start thinking about your jump. Remind yourself of every step you need to go through for a successful skydive. Once you have it clear in your mind, start breathing slowly and consciously. Add to this process a smile on your face. It helps your muscles to relax and gives you and other people more confidence.
3. Find a great and experienced coach
An experienced skydiving coach will give you the necessary confidence that you need before you have your own. Find someone that makes you feel good and has enough experience to help you improve your flying and under canopy skills. Coaches that go through all the jump during the briefing are recommended. Take a canopy class. Planning diverse situations will reduce the stress level because it will refresh all procedures we might have to go through.
4. Watch other people’s landings
We are jumping from an airplane at 13.500 feet with a backpack full of material that will save our lives. When we understand how our gear works and witness other people using it successfully over and over again, we will be more calm for our first or next jump. It’s a great idea to take time and enjoy watching a few landings before you start jumping.
5. Be grateful
I’m always thankful to be able to do what I love. Not many people will have the opportunity we have. We need to show that we appreciate that by talking a little bit with God or with our Higher Power. It can be anyone, anything, or whatever you think. It is just good to have someone to share our thoughts and gratefulness before we jump. I also believe that above in the sky, it’s the perfect place for this little chat.
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