The A.N.S.W.E.R. to Tension and Anxiety


Photo: Lauri Stricker focused and in control at Ibex, UT. Stewart Green image.

Whether you are climbing a 5-move boulder problem or a 5-pitch route, unchecked tension and anxiety will hold you back like gravity on steriods. Physical tension kills motor skills and technique, while mental tension (anxiety and fear) quells creativity, focus, and the opportunity to achieve flow.

And, if you are like most climbers, tension and anxiety are killing your performance far more than you recognize.

Following is the antidote to tension–my six-step ANSWER sequence for maintaining and regaining control before and during a climb. Initial use of the ANSWER sequence may require a quiet room and five minutes to perform effectively.

With practice, however, you will be able to incorporate this sequence into your climbing almost as quickly and seamlessly as you chalk up.

I urge you to print out the ANSWER Sequence and begin using it throughout the day, both on and off the rock. Gradually, you will gain a new sense of calm, focused flow and breakthrough to a higher level of climbing performance!

Step 1: A wareness of anxiety, tension, or negative thoughts. Tuning into your “inner world” is the first step in creating a peak performance state. Use the following steps to counter the problem areas you diagnose.

Step 2: N ormalize breathing. Irregular breathing multiplies tension, so strive for smooth, even breathing when the pressure is on.

Step 3: S can for areas of muscular tension. To reduce tension, contract the affected muscles for a few seconds, then relax them and visualize the tension draining out like air from a balloon.

Step 4: W ave of relaxation. Take a slow, deep breath and feel the wave of relaxation wash from your head to your toes.

Step 5: E rase thoughts of the past–engage the present moment . Vividly visualize the ideal outcome and believe in it, but then return your thoughts to the moment and let the outcome take care of itself.

Step 6: R eset posture and flash a smile. Trust your abilities, engage the route completely, and have fun regardless of the results.

Copyright 2004 Eric J. Horst. All rights reserved.