Last week, I swam across a river that was 300m wide and back with a good friend. Given I had never done something as risky, the experience taught me a thing or two about how my mind deals with fear.
During the swim, the main source of fear wasn’t the deep river, its strange creatures, its current or my stamina. Instead, I was afraid that I wasn’t swimming fast enough. Even after a 100 strokes, it seemed like I was only inching forward across the wide river.
Frustrated that I wasn’t moving forward fast enough, I kicked harder and abandoned my calm and relaxed swimming form, causing me expend more energy and grow more tired. You can see how this reaction can easily spiral downwards. Luckily, the presence of my friend nearby helped me recover and calm down. I steadied my form and slowly, but surely, made it to the other side.
Our mind has a tendency to always expect quick results. When this expectation is not met, it can lead to fear and frustration that can set us further back and spiral downwards into panic.
The alternative is to keep calm and finish a 600m swim, one gentle stroke at a time.