On March 3, 2021

Snow swimming, part 3: Shifting my relationship with fear

‘Overflow’ by Irene Cole

Is your relationship with fear contentious or friendly?

By Sandra Dee Owens

Throughout my life, I have thought of fear as something I should overcome, battle and conquer. But when I began snow swimming four years ago, I wanted a fresh perspective—so fear would not stop me from doing what I wanted to do.

First, I took time to think about the significant role fear had played in my life. I was grateful for the times it had saved me and frustrated by the times it had held me back.

It was time to shift my relationship with fear to something more helpful and less restrictive.

‘Winged’ by Sandra Dee Owens — ink & acrylic

The shift

At 29 years old, I had suffered a nervous breakdown due to some difficult circumstances in my life. Experiencing round-theclock, out-of-control fear and anxiety for two and a half years, I made a complete recovery (without medication) through that long, intensely painful journey.

A journey that taught me a lot about myself, fear, and all the other gremlins.

Now, nearly 30 years later, I was ready to bring my quiet, inner advisor (a.k.a .my “wild voice”) to the fore.

And let the gremlins diminish.

‘Motivation’ by Sandra Dee Owens – acrylic & Oil

Mind’s eye

Closing my eyes, I imagined “fear” as a small, invisible gremlin that — like its cousins, “should,” “later,” “can’t,” etc. — sat on my shoulder each day, filling my head with danger, worry, and unconfidence.

So I re-imagined “fear” with a name: “Francine” and a face of a woman—and invited her over for tea.

As I imagined Francine and me sitting around a small kitchen table and me reaching for her hand, I sincerely thanked her for working so hard to save me from harm and death.

“Well done,” I said gratefully, “but you seem to have control issues and one setting: HIGH!!! and it’s not appropriate to tell me the sky is always falling—because it is not,” I said, with kind resolve.

Then, speaking to both of us, I stated that I was fully capable of steering my own ship, and felt a surge of grownup-ness course through me—as I realized it was true.

Gently, I plucked Francine out of her chair and placing her behind me, adjusted the rearview mirror—so I could find her when I needed her.

Friends now, we had tea.

So my new relationship with fear began, freeing my mind, body, and spirit to seek greater health—doing the things I wanted to do.

But sometimes it’s other people’s fears that can derail your dreams.

Though I did not personally experience fear when I began snow swimming (I was too excited by the adventure of it!), I did spend a lot of energy attending to other people’s (deep) fear of cold water swimming.

And I realized fear can cripple us from within—and without. So I created a physical meditation that allows fear—to pass on by.

“The Passing”

“The Passing” is a physical meditation in the mindfulness-yoga-calisthenics series I call “Snowga.”

Each time I hear the sound of the fear gremlin (whether internally or coming from others), I do this quick and easy movement. Planting my feet shoulder-width apart, I stand tall and flatten the arches and toe “bridges” to create a full-foot connection to the earth. It’s a foundational Snowga move I call “Footbridge” and I use it yearround to prevent ankle injuries for uneven and slippery surfaces.

Closing my eyes, I inhale deeply through my nose and note the smell and temperature of the air around me. Then I open my hands and press them flat together in front of my chest (thumbs against breastbone).

Bending forward slightly at the waist, I dip one shoulder down and across my body toward the opposite hip. Exhaling slowly through my mouth, I look behind me and imagine fear passing over my dipped shoulder like the wind.

Smiling to the sky behind me, I wave goodbye to fear as it passes over and beyond.

Then I straighten up, stand tall, and repeat the steps above on the other side.

I love how “The Passing” combines a standing stretch and mindfulness that returns me to listening to my wild voice without involving, arguing, or harming—anyone.

I am simply minding my own business.

‘A solo journey with friends’ by Sandra Dee Owens: acrylic & oil

What is your motivation trifecta?

It took time and thought to discover what my natural (no “shoulds” allowed) motivators for wellness were. This required consideration of what was fun—for me.

The more I minded my own business, the clearer my motivation trifecta became.

Adventure + Outdoors + Movement

A lover of the outdoors, I realized that adventure was the thing that got me the most excited to go outside to work and play.

Once I identified my natural motivators, I stopped thinking of how I “should” stay healthy—and went outside to play.

For the second season of snow swimming (Sept. 1 – May 1), I added a big change to the sport by running from my home to the lake (1.5 miles) in winter, swimming, then running home.

Since these changes from the first season created a whole new adventure for me, I reveled in creating each homespun strategy to do it safely. This ratcheted up the adventure piece for me considerably. Just the way I like it!

For more info about Sandra, visit: sandradeeowens.com

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