4 Tips for Fear: Anxiety & The Menstrual Cycle for Climbers
Our anxiety fluctuates with our menstrual cycle. This week, Coach Maddy gives us her 4 top tips for managing fear and anxiety throughout your cycle.
The F word… FEAR…
Changes in mood and anxiety are some of the most prevalent menstrual cycle symptoms reported. Given that climbing is a sport thought of as having a ‘fear’ or ‘bravery’ factor, it is not surprising that, anecdotally, climbers report experiencing a change in fear or how anxious they feel when climbing throughout their cycle.
Most climbers will experience fear at some point. Something I (@madeleine_cope) have noticed is that I get scared more easily and feel less focused in the lead up to my period.
I enjoy some amount of fear in my climbing: I like the challenge that it can present and I find staying calm in potentially scary situations quite satisfying. However, not all phases of my cycle seem to be geared up to do this.
Over the years that I have been tracking, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks for managing my fear as it fluctuates with my menstrual cycle. These have helped keep my experiences positive!
Practical Tips for Fear
1. Communicate with your climbing partner
Climbing is about socialising! Everyone loves to chat with their friends at the crag. However, when I am finding it harder to stay focused and may be feeling scared, then I find it comforting to have the full attention of my belayer.
I have found talking to my climbing partner really useful – letting them know I am feeling a bit more anxious or scared about climbing up to a certain clip – as they naturally encourage and support you!
They’d most likely be doing this anyway, but the connection between you and your belayer can be reassuring and comforting, helping keep the anxiety at bay.
2. Fall practice
I have tried numerous approaches when it comes to fall practice and my cycle. What I have found works for me is to incorporate some falls when warming up for sport climbing.
The key for me has been to start easy and build-up. The aim is to be relaxed before letting go. If I feel anxious before the fall, I know the fall is too big so I make it a bit shorter. The aim is to feel more comfortable falling throughout the climbing day, not less!
I find focusing on relaxing my breathing, face and neck a great technique for calming myself. Also, I have found something simple, like cracking a smile to your belayer after letting them know you are going to do the fall practice, can have a big impact on my mindset!
Mindset Tips for Fear
1. Be flexible and self-compassionate
In climbing, I often see a ‘push on’ mindset and I have definitely been guilty of this myself. However, fearful experiences that move out of the ‘challenge zone’ and into the ‘threat zone’ aren’t only an acute experience. I find that negative experiences, when I get overwhelmed or too scared, stay with me and impact future climbing experiences.
For example, if I get scared on a certain style of trad route, I remember this when I go back to that style again and it impacts my confidence. In the lead up to my period, I find my focus is not as good and I get scared more easily. Now that I know this, I try to be flexible with my climbing plans so that I either climb sport routes or well-protected trad climbs. This saves my psyche and confidence for the next week when I know my comfort zone will have expanded again!
I have learnt not to force myself or beat myself up about this, but see it as a good decision for my future climbing, protecting my confidence in that same way I would try to protect my body.
2. Be mindful
When I get more scared, I feel more distracted and find it harder to focus on the climbing. I find it really helpful to recognise this and use some mindful practises whilst at the crag to get me in the zone.
I spend more time visualising sequences so the climbing is more automatic. I also take a moment to focus on the sound of my breathing, especially whilst getting ready or at rests.
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We’d love to hear about your experience!
Do you feel more fear during certain times of the menstrual cycle?
How do you adapt your climbing to this?
Let us know in the comments👇👇👇