Overcoming anxiety… one tree at a time

My heart feels like it’s beating out of my chest and I’m wiping my palms on my shorts every couple of seconds.

I’m about five metres up the Dave Evan’s Bicentennial Tree in Warren National Park, Western Australia.

Dave Evan’s is not just any tree. It is a 65 metre high tree. The equivalent height of a 21 story building.

Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, South Australia

The view from the bottom of Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree. A  65 metres tall Karri tree in Warren National Park.

I realise this climb is an adventurous feat, probably constructed for thrill seekers.

Dave Evans warning sign for tree climb

There’s even a sign at at the bottom to make you doubt your ability to safely reach the top!

For me, someone who cried on the rides at Disneyland, this is not my usual cup of tea.

At first I had no intention of even attempting the climb. So sure enough, when I decided to just see how far I could climb my head was filled with thoughts like “I can’t do it” and “there’s no way I will get all the way”.

Unsurprisingly, a quarter of the way up I was ready to turn back.

Overcoming feelings of anxiety

Not feeling too sure about this…

But why should I turn back? Why do I always allow feelings of anxiety and negative thoughts hold me back from achieving what I want?

I realised that if I was going to keep going, and prove to myself that I can achieve great things even with anxiety, I had to put trust in myself.

The power of mindfulness

By focusing on each movement, stepping up, holding the stake and then moving on to the next rung I chose to put myself in control. Not my anxiety and not the negative thoughts in my head.

These feelings and thoughts didn’t just magically go away, but by focusing on the task at hand wholeheartedly and not getting caught up in my head I was able to reach the top, and then safely (and slowly!) return to the bottom.

Climbing Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree

Feeling much calmer and in control making my way to the top

It would have been much easier and comfortable to take a picture from the bottom, watch Drew climb the tree, then get in the car and leave. Realising yet again I’d missed out because “I couldn’t do it”.

Proud to reach the top of Dave Evans Tree

I’m bloody proud that I made it to the top with this guy, and that we both achieved something pretty amazing together.

Am I alone in my feelings of anxiety?

How many experiences have you missed out on or how many things have you put off doing because you thought “I can’t do it”? Or the beating in your chest or the sweat in your palms was just too much to bear?

For me – countless.

But this year I’m making a conscious effort to release the hold anxiety has on my life so that I can begin to believe “I can”, even when faced with challenges.

This is not a new concept for me; it’s something that I’ve been working on for a few years. But this holiday is the perfect time to put everything I’ve learnt so far into practice and I wanted to share what I’ve found useful so far.

3 steps to help overcome anxiety

  1. Breathe! Focus on the present moment.
  2. Accept and acknowledge you’re feeling anxious and know it is ok to feel this way. Do not judge these feelings, instead;
  3. ACT! Move forward in a meaningful direction. You have the power to choose what step you will take next.

Step 3 if definitely the hardest. These feelings don’t just go away, but if you consciously move forward, even with the smallest steps, you will get closer to achieving your goals and living the life you want.

Eventually you will climb that tree!

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