The Funologist – Snow Swimming part 3: Shifting my relationship with fear

By Sandra Dee Owens

Is your relationship with fear contentious . . . or friendly?

Throughout my life, I have thought of fear as something I should overcome, battle and conquer. But when I began snow swimming four years ago, I wanted a fresh perspective so that fear would not stop me from doing what I wanted to do.

First, I took time to think about the significant role fear had played in my life. I was grateful for the times it had saved me and frustrated by the times it had held me back.

It was time to shift my relationship with fear to something more helpful and less restrictive.

The shift

At 29 years old, I had suffered a nervous breakdown due to some difficult circumstances in my life. Experiencing round-the-clock, out-of-control fear and anxiety for two and a half years, I made a complete recovery (without medication) through that long, intensely painful journey.

A journey that taught me a lot about myself, fear and all the other gremlins.

Now, nearly 30 years later, I was ready to bring my quiet, inner advisor – aka my “wild voice” – to the fore.

And let the gremlins diminish.

Mind’s eye

Closing my eyes, I imagined “Fear” as a small, invisible gremlin that, like its cousins “Should,” “Later,” “Can’t” etc., sat on my shoulder each day, filling my head with danger, worry and unconfidence.

So I re-imagined fear with a name (Francine) and a face (a woman) – and invited her over for tea.

‘A solo journey with friends’ by Sandra Dee Owens

I imagined Francine and me sitting around a small kitchen table and me reaching for her hand, I sincerely thanked her for working so hard to save me from harm and death.

“Well done,” I said with gratitude, “but you seem to have control issues and one setting, HIGH!!! and it’s not appropriate to tell me the sky is always falling – because it is not,” I said with kind resolve.

Then, speaking to both of us, I stated that I was fully capable of steering my own ship and felt a surge of grown-upidness course through me as I realized it was true.

Gently, I plucked Francine out of her chair and, placing her behind me and adjusted the rearview mirror –so I could find her when I needed her.

Friends now – we had tea.

So my new relationship with fear began, freeing my mind, body and spirit to seek greater health – doing the things I wanted to do.

Does other people’s fear derail your dreams?

Though I did not personally experience fear when I began snow swimming (I was too excited by the adventure of it!), I did spend a lot of energy attending to other people’s (deep) fear of cold-water swimming.

‘Winged’ by Sandra Dee Owens

And I realized fear can cripple us from within – and without. So I created a physical meditation that allows fear to pass on by.

‘The Passing’

“The Passing” is a physical meditation in the mindfulness-yoga-calisthenics series I call “Snowga.”

Each time I hear the sound of the fear gremlin (whether internally or coming from others), I do this quick and easy movement. (See a video demonstration here.)

Planting my feet shoulder-width apart, I stand tall and flatten the arches and toe bridges to create a full-foot connection to the earth, a foundational Snowga move I call “Footbridge.” (“Footbridge” is my year-round ankle injury prevention for uneven and slippery surfaces.)

Closing my eyes, I inhale deeply through my nose and note the smell and temperature of the air around me. Then I open my hands and press them flat together in front of my chest with my thumbs against my breastbone.

Bending forward slightly at the waist, I dip one shoulder down and across my body toward the opposite hip. Exhaling slowly through my mouth, I look behind me and imagine fear passing over my dipped shoulder like the wind.

Smiling to the sky behind me, I wave goodbye to fear as it passes over and beyond.

Then I straighten up, stand tall and repeat the steps above on the other side.

I love how “The Passing” combines a standing stretch and mindfulness that returns me to listening to my wild voice without involving, arguing with or harming anyone.

I am simply minding my own business.

What is your motivation trifecta?

‘Motivation’ by Sandra Dee Owens

It took time and thought to discover what my natural – no “shoulds” allowed – motivators for wellness were. This required consideration of what was fun . . . for me.

The more I minded my own business, the clearer my Motivation Trifecta became.

Adventure + Outdoors + Movement

A lover of the outdoors, I realized that adventure was the thing that got me the most excited to go outside to work and play.

Once I identified my natural motivators, I stopped thinking of how I “should” stay healthy and went outside to play.

For the second season of snow swimming (Sept. 1 to May 1), I added a big change to the sport by running from my home to the lake – a distance of 1.5 miles – in winter, swimming and then running home.

Since these changes from the first season, creating a whole new adventure for me, I reveled in creating each homespun strategy to do it safely. This ratcheted up the adventure piece for me considerably.

Just the way I like it.

See a demonstration of ‘The Passing,’ described above.

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Read all the columns in the “The Funologist” series by Sandra Dee Owens.