The Other Side of Fear

Have you ever felt so nervous that your breathing becomes quick and shallow, your thoughts run amuck with stories about everything that can (and of course will) go wrong, and the butterflies in your stomach are flying in so many different directions you think you might get sick?

I, perhaps like some of you reading this, am no stranger to fear.

For Memorial Day weekend my husband and I took a road trip to Hunter Mountain in the Catskills, New York.  We went to visit friends and experience the longest zipline adventure tour in the country (that’s what I was told!).

Zipline Pilot School - NY

At 3200 feet across and 600 feet high this zip is enough to make anyone’s stomach turn.

3200 feet across

looks like ants

I worried about this adventure for weeks.

Sunday morning arrived and I geared up with the rest of our group. To calm my nerves I took long, slow deep breaths, paid attention to my thoughts and tried to think positively.

When one of the guides started offering me stress management tips, I laughed. “I teach stress management for a living!” I said. He laughed. I finally relaxed.

Our guide checked and double-checked our gear. I heard “Zip ready” come through the walkie-talkie indicating that the guides waiting across the mountain were ready for our arrival.

I exhaled my last breath on the platform as the guide then shouted, “3, 2, 1 ZIP AWAY!”

My feet left from the platform and I curled up into my cannonball (for aerodynamics). I kept breathing, slowly turning my head to catch the view. About a minute later my feet were once again on solid ground ¾ of a mile away.

As soon as my feet rested on the platform, my fears disappeared.


What have I learned about fear over the years?

  • It’s exhausting. Worrying is mentally exhausting. Fear is necessary, but spending the amount of time I sometimes spend is often a waste of energy.
  • We build confidence (and learn a lot!) by doing. You cannot build confidence sitting home on your couch thinking about doing things. You have to do them.
  • Mind vs body is a terrific struggle. Deep down I knew I would be ok. I used my breath to settle my thoughts and my stomach and I did feel better. Your body, my body, our bodies are so much stronger that we think or treat them. Knowing how to control your thoughts and have more faith in your physical self is an incredible feeling.
  • Feel the fear. Zipping comes with risk. My fear allowed me to collect data and determine whether or not I wanted to participate. Fear gives me an energy boost, I feel both excited and nervous. I honestly believe “You will be stronger when this is over”.

Stacey and Eric Zip
Over the years I’ve tested my strength – mentally and physically – by running marathons, hiking through the Grand Canyon, and participating in a firewalk. For this adrenaline junkie I actually love the feeling of fear. It means I’m on to something extraordinary, and if I can get myself through it I know I will come out stronger on the other side. I always feel as though “I can do anything.”

Note: Zipping isn’t for everyone and comes with risk. Although this particular tour is built with safety in mind, you just never know. Zip at your own risk, and if it doesn’t feel right for you, wait it out. What I’m suggesting in this post is that when we avoid or turn away from what scares us (within reason) we fail to grow and build confidence. Without confidence you cannot believe in yourself or your actions. Please, zip at your own risk.

How about you? Do you run from fear? Feel it and head straight for it? What is your experience?

Have you ever zipped?

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  • lori johnson

    I’ve Zipped and love it! The rush is so much exhilarating and fun. Flying through the trees is a blast!
    I highly recommend it.

  • Stacey Shipman

    Lori – You gotta try this one at Hunter – it’s unlike any you’ve ever done – I promise. Higher and longer. It’s a blast.

  • Kelly Tammaro


    Personally, I am afraid of heights but am “open to the possibilities” after seeing and reading this!

    Well done. I really enjoyed this.


  • Stacey Shipman

    Kelly – many of the folks with us were afraid of heights. It’s not the height that gets me but “being attached to a wire” – really a very thick cable. Thank you for commenting, means a lot.

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Hi and welcome to the Brave Communicator blog where I write about communication as the path to well-being, trust, and influence.

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