The door pops open, and you feel your heart leap. Maybe it starts when you arrive at the DZ. But you are nervous. Even scared. Is this normal?
The short answer is yes. If you are new to the sport, it will happen more intensely and more often. If you have been around a while, it will creep in now and again. Here are some causes and fixes if you want to reduce the anxiety.
Scared or just nervous?
I am treating nervous, anxious, scared, and fearful as a continuum here. For this article, I am referring to the physical reaction involved with fight or flight. The intensity can vary, and you might label it in different ways.
Who gets scared
All jumpers deal with some level of anxiety some of the time. For example, I have 16000 jumps, and some days I look out and feel a random bit of nervousness. Take me out of my favorite rig, put me in an unfamiliar dropzone, add some questionable trackers on the plane, or make the weather weird and I will feel feelings about flinging myself out the door. And of course, competition nerves happen.
New people, especially at first
You are performing an extraordinary act when you are jumping from a plane. Jumping from an aircraft is an unnatural action that would normally kill you (hooray parachutes!). Of course, your mind and body rebel!
Adrenaline, junky or not, this excitement level is part of the attraction for skydivers. We like overcoming the fear and getting that jolt of energy.
Fades with Jumps
If you are new, you might be wondering if you are always going to feel this way. Generally, the intensity of feelings will reduce with experience. How many jumps? That varies from person to person, but I’d assert the most significant reduction will come in your first 100 jumps.
Bonus Note: Experience Danger Zone
There is also a danger zone after people start to become confident and less nervous. This is when a jumper is experienced enough to have survived a few scenarios but ignorant of the more severe dangers involved in the sport. Jumpers in this phase take extra risks and push themselves past their comfort zone too quickly.
As you get more jumps, replace your nervousness with respect for the dangers in our sport.
How to reduce anxiety
Confidence in routines
Athletes often have a “pre-shot” routine, a series of motions, thoughts, and visualizations that help them perform their best under stress. Routines are comforting and can ease anxieties. They also make you safer!
You hopefully have great routines involving gear checks, handle checks, best practices for planning a jump, and emergency procedures. Be methodical and consistent with these routines and they will ease nerves.
Jumpers get nervous when they don’t jump often enough. The first jump of the day can be the worst, and the longer your breaks, the more intense your feelings might be. So work to stay as current as you can.
Jump with others
Once you are licensed, try to jump with other experienced skydivers. A veteran group can guide you and help provide a support system. Also, being with other people can bolster you when you feel anxious!
Jumping with a coach or great mentor can help you feel more confident and reduce anxiety. In addition to just modeling calm and safe behavior, they can teach you skills to make you a better skydiver.
Things to do on the plane
Everyone gets nervous sometimes when jumping out of a plane. You can reduce fear by
- Create Safe Routines
- Keeping Current
- Jumping with Others
- Getting Instruction
Looking for some coached tunnel time? Join me by emailing me at christy@furycoaching, or check out some options upcoming options below!