The Get-a-Grip Guide to Conquering Your Worst Fears
What's behind it: Like fear of snakes and spiders, being scared of heights is largely primitive. After all, one of your brain's jobs is to keep you away from dangerous situations, and heights are a legitimate threat, explains Sheryl R. Jackson, PhD, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Even people who go bungee jumping are afraid. They've just channeled their fear into excitement, she explains.
If you become stuck on a bridge or have to go into a high-rise office building, try reasoning out the situation, suggests Jackson. "Ask yourself, what's the likelihood that the bridge or building will collapse? Think about how many millions of people have stood in your spot and been just fine." Avoid looking at your feet, which can make you feel woozy. Jackson also suggests getting something cold to drink, which shifts your focus and helps you calm down.
Pro tip: Tiki Mashy, a hang gliding instructor and co-owner of Cowboy Up Hang Gliding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
This champion hang glider has a healthy fear of heights, even though she's soared as high as 16,000 feet. To cope, Mashy keeps low to the ground when she has to peer over the edge of a precipice. "I crouch down and look only as long as I need to. When you're down low, it helps you feel grounded, even if you're on the edge of a huge drop-off."
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