The marriage of self-trust and anxiety just struck me like a bolt of lightning. When we trust ourselves, we are inherently less anxious.
I was musing about my hike yesterday and really liking how I feel so calm in the wilderness, how capable and strong I feel. I have developed great trust in myself out there, because I have to. I am often alone or the member of the group who knows the most about where we are going and what we need to do to get there.
Since getting sober, I’ve built more self trust over the years. I have a training available that highlights three main avenues to building self-trust. Accountability, feeling what is, and connecting with your inner child. These are helpful foundational pieces to generating self-trust that builds with practice and lasts for the duration. Self-trust in the wilderness is a different animal. Since COVID started, I have had the freedom to hike weekly in the nearby national forests. Even when trailheads were closed, I would sneak off and duck behind tape and head off into the mountains, wondering how being outside with no one else around could possibly put myself or anyone at risk for the contagion.
As more trailheads started opening, I made hiking a regular part of my week. I bought new backpacking gear and planned an 8-day solo trip. I wasn’t sure if I was 100% prepared, but I felt prepared enough. As it turns out, I was just fine out there and am planning another. Sore and slow, but quite all right. Gaining experience, sticking with a commitment to hike, truly enjoying my time alone in the wilderness: knowing I can handle bigger and harder climbs because I have trained my body and mind, because I know how much food and water to carry – all of these have led to explicit self-trust.
I do want to add a disclaimer that I plan on taking both a wilderness first aid responder course and an orienteering course when these are being offered again in our post COVID world. I need and want these skills to add to my self-sufficiency.
I have developed trust in myself on the trail. Having this trust lessens my anxiety out there and increases my enjoyment.
Lightning strike. Self-trust is directly correlated to having less anxiety.
This works across the board, not just in the wilderness, and has been at play in my own life for years. Being clear in my YES and NO because I trust myself leads to significantly less anxiety over deliberations and daily choices. I can get lost in indecision, and indecision is a catalyst of anxiety. Should I eat this, or that? Should I assert myself in this situation or not? Should I keep climbing up this snowy hill or turn back?
When self-trust is our mode of operation, when it is our status quo, indecision lessens. We are able to partner with ourselves in making choices that reflect our essential selves.
So much of the time, anxiety hangs over us like a cloud, settles into our bones and bodies like thick morning fog and weighs us down like a tangle of seaweed in dense salt water. We don’t experience moments of anxiety; we live wrapped up in it. I know this feeling.
What if we tried a new tactic? What if we practice developing self-trust at the forefront of our anxiety management?
Yesterday, I climbed almost 3000 feet up to the top of a 10,000 foot mountain in the falling snow and swirling white, dense fog that shrouded our view. The trail was unclear, footprints headed up and around in many different directions. I had my map, back up charger for my cell, micro spikes and hiking poles. My friend had his warm jacket and no mittens, but kept his hands firmly wedged in his downy pockets, curled around a pair of extra fleece socks I’d had in my car. Some steps we sunk in up past our knees. Some icy portions caused us to skid momentarily, and lose our balance once or twice. We snacked standing up, nowhere to sit, and when we finally neared the top we walked a ridgeline, the other side of a steep drop invisible to us in the fog. We watched our steps, I moving ahead, having done the trail once before and holding the map. Looking back many times to the outline of my friend. One step than the next, head down against the wind and biting snow, hands in pockets.
This was an adventure. We have had many together, and trust each other as well as ourselves in our own abilities. This made the hike pretty great. Challenging, oh yes! Cold? Indeed! But not anxiety producing.
Trust is the gateway to less anxiety. Trust is the gateway to more ease.