by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN
It was going to be a glorious vacation starting by renting an RV in Phoenix, then traveling to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, we would camp, hike and experience the wide, wild western part of our country. Our plan was to head back to Phoenix and return home two weeks later.
Three weeks later my husband, 9-year old twin sons and I were safely back in Rhode Island. We had lots of glorious photographs and fantastic memories. The only problem was my vacation included utter terror and abject fear. Did you know that there are no guard rails on the winding, steep high ways through the glorious National Parks of the Grand Canyon and Zion? Did you know that sitting in the front passenger seat of an RV means you are sitting in an incredible tall place where you can look down into the sheer drop so easily visible? Did you know that I am a very imaginative person who spent too many hours visualizing the mis-calculations of my husband’s driving that would lead to the death and distraction of us all? I begged, pleaded, yelled and finally got on the floor of the RV pounding my fists and kicking my legs in a full blown temper tantrum asking him to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE SLOW DOWN!!!!
Several years later we were planning another similar trip in and RV, this time to visit Glacier National Park in Montana. In addition to all the planning, organizing and arranging necessary for the trip, I was determined to change my terrorizing ways. After all, no one else experienced the same panic that I had. My challenge was to manage my fear without trying to manage my husband who was a perfectly safe and competent driver. But how? I considered medication, but did not want to feel foggy, dopey and out of it for our family vacation. Then I remembered what I knew about behavior, and total behavior.
Our behavior includes acting/thinking/feeling/physiology-ing. These four component work in harmony and simultaneously. I also knew from my nursing background that the physiology-ing of fear is the same as the physiology-ing of excitement. The difference between these two total behaviors is the thinking component. Yes! I needed to change the imaginative story I was telling myself.
I practiced for weeks before our flight west to Montana. We’re going on an exciting adventure that will include new experiences and sights! I’m so excited! This became my mantra whenever I thought of our trip, whether I was telling the story to someone else or thinking and planning on my own. Once we got into the RV and started driving on the first highway, I changed what I told myself slightly. We are on our great adventure. I can’t wait for all the new experiences and sights! This is exciting! Every evening I wrote all I had experienced, seen and been excited about in my gratitude journal. I repeated this mantra as many times as I got “nervous” instead of excited. I repeated this every time I say or did anything exciting. I repeated this mantra frequently and often. I was having a great adventure.
Success! Taking control of changing the story I told myself allowed me to convert my terror and panic. I genuinely enjoyed a family vacation which was a great adventure, filled with excitement, extraordinary sights and wonderful family fun and experiences.