Am I going mad?

Standard

That thought came to me a lot in the past eight weeks while looking after my mum overseas, who is suffering dementia. Needless to say it was a stressful period with little time to myself. I managed to occasionally get out for an early morning walk, as you could read in my previous post, which felt great and enabled me to focus on my own needs briefly. I focussed on my posture and breath while walking and came home feeling ready to face the day ahead. On the wetter days I resorted to some morning yoga on my mat, that always comes along for any trip.

I bought some yarn and crocheted a vest in a few weeks, while mum was pretending to read the newspaper in front of the tv and drank lots of rooibos tea. This all comforted me and kept me sane and patient in dealing with her varying moods, worries, repetitive stories and questions. Still, I felt tired a lot and in need of an extra boost.

I was not specifically looking for anything, but a visit to a sauna did cross my mind a few times. While mum was resting after lunch, I spend time watching some interviews about longevity, a subject I am always trying to learn more about. In one of the episodes of this American based series, a dutch guy explained how he learned to cope better with stress and affected his immune system, by following some simple breathing techniques, as well as creating an extraordinary resilience in extreme environmental conditions such as heat and cold. To prove his claims he proceeded to set 20+ world records, like running marathons in the arctic circle and Kalahari desert in shorts only, as well as climbing the Kilimanjaro in record time, also just wearing shorts and sneakers. He swam under the polar icecap without a wetsuit! He was able to control his autonomic nervous and immune system, which was previously thought to be outside of our conscious power and his claims were backed up by extensive professional medical research in various universities in the Netherlands and United States. He also proved with medical tests that anyone can learn to do this with a group of volunteers in 4 days. He got my attention!

This was the second time his name cropped up. While I was visiting mum a year and a half earlier, I watched a documentary about the dutch astronaut legend Wubbo Ockels, who was fighting a losing battle with cancer. He was using Wim Hof’s breathing and cold exposure method to alleviate his suffering successfully, likely extending his prognosis. This documentary did not expand into the method nor Wim Hof much, but it did stay in my mind as fascinating.

It took a third stumble on his method, before it dawned on me that this might be just what I needed to research more thoroughly. I looked up the website http://www.wimhofmethod.com , watched a few video’s and warmed (pun intended) more and more to the idea of trying this, especially after watching the video of Laird Hamilton, a well know legend of big wave surfing endorsing the ‘Wim Hof Method’, or WHM for short. I checked out the events calender and found that Anne Eijssink http://www.eijscoach.nl , one of the qualified instructors was holding a workshop not too far from where I was staying. I signed up…

Her workshop was divided in two sessions 2 weeks apart. The second one was sceduled later than my flight back home and after an email exchange she offered me a private session for the second part at her home in Zutphen a few days before my departure.

The 2 1/2 hour group session was held at an interesting location in Wichmond, in her sister’s farm office/fitness studio, build inside the stable, high above the mozying cows, which surprizingly had a calming effect watching them going about their business underneath. After a coffee and introduction we learned how the way we breathe affects our emotions and energy levels, how it all works in the body and how to have more control over our emotions using our breath. We did some relaxation breathing, pushups and slowly proceeded to the WHM of breathing to feel the differences. Our homework was to use the breathing method daily for the next 30 days and aim to at least finish in the shower with cold water to improve circulation. This benefits the effects from the breathing, by ensuring the energising oxygen gets into every nook and cranny of our body.

In the second private session in Zutphen I learned more about mindset, focus, motivation and the effect on our reality and quality of life, followed by another breathing session. She made me practice a horse stance punching air and breathing, which was to be done before and after the bath in cold water topped up with a few buckets of ice…

Slowly I stepped into the icy bath and made sure to keep going steadily deeper into the water untill I sat in it submerged up to my chest. My body was protesting by painfully constricting the smaller bloodvessels, in my legs especially. Not unlike the opposite effect, when your hands and feet get really cold and you warm them under the warm water tap or in front of a fire. I hung in there untill my breath became slow and steady. The pain eased. I am unsure how long I sat there, but probably not much more than a couple of minutes before I felt the need to get out. My legs were a bit numb now and I looked down to see if they were still attached and holding me up.

Anne was really supportive, talking me through the experience. As soon as I stood there punching air in the late Autumn Sun that peeked out from behind the clouds smiling down on me, I felt a warm wave pulsing through my body. It felt invigorating! After the airpunches she suggested I try get back in the bath again, which I did. After all she spend a fair bit of time and effort preparing this bath, hacking the bucketsize iceblocks into smaller bits with an axe, which I did not want to go to waste. The pain was a lot less this time around and I even managed to smile for the pictures she offered to take for proof.

Driving home I still felt the ‘high’ it had had given me, despite the occasional shiver of my body slowly getting back to its usual state. I am so GLAD I gave into the urge to do something beneficial for myself too while there, listening to the suble messages and going with my urge to satisfy my curiosity, despite it being a tat crazy.

I still do the breathing method every day with the help of the WHM app and finish my shower with cold water. I love the feeling of peace, of giving my body complete rest for a minute or so while doing the breath hold. I even had a shower outside under the hose after I mowed the lawns and got covered in dust a day after I returned. Even though the weather here in Australia is heading into Summer and a far cry from chilly ‘Holland’ at the end of Autumn, it still invigorates me and gives me a lot more energy throughout the day. The more subtle effects are that my lungs and sinuses clear out more muck. It does seem to affect my motivation to take action on my thoughts and ideas and decrease my normally present procrastination on decisions. Also am I able to walk around barefoot more now without getting them cold all the time.

At one point, not long before the workshop, I went to bed with a heavy head and woke with an increasingly unpleasant headache. After my early morning breathing session and recommended inversion exercise on the app, it cleared up completely! I am curious to find out where this can take me and what the long term benefits will be, but even if it is only to be more resilient in the cold, it is already worth it!

What do you think?

Am I going mad?

Advertisements

Life lessons found in unexpected places

Standard

“When Yates cut the rope, Simpson plummeted down the cliff and into a deep crevasse. Exhausted and suffering from hypothermia, Yates dug himself a snow cave to wait out the storm. The next day, Yates carried on descending the mountain by himself. When he reached the crevasse he realized the situation that Simpson had been in and what had happened when he cut the rope. After calling for Simpson and hearing no reply, Yates made the assumption that Simpson had died and so continued down the mountain alone.

Simpson, however, was still alive. He had survived the 150-foot fall despite his broken leg and had landed on a small ledge inside the crevasse. When Simpson regained consciousness, he discovered that the rope had been cut and realized that Yates would presume that he was dead. He therefore had to save himself. It was impossible for Simpson to climb up to the entrance of the crevasse (because of the overhanging ice and his broken leg). Therefore his only choice was to lower himself deeper into the crevasse and hope that there was another way out. After lowering himself, Simpson found another small entrance and climbed back onto the glacier via a steep snow slope.

inside a crevasse

inside a crevasse

From there, Simpson spent three days without food and with almost no water, crawling and hopping five miles back to their base camp. This involved navigating the glacier (which was scattered with more crevasses) and the moraines below. Exhausted and almost completely delirious, he reached base camp only a few hours before Yates intended to return to civilization. Simpson’s survival is widely regarded by mountaineers as amongst the most amazing pieces of mountaineering lore.[4] “ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touching_the_Void

Base camp

Base camp

Over Winter my friend and fellow blogger Felicia wrote a post about a movie that had inspired her. If you like to read it here is the link: http://embracethesoul.com/2014/08/05/yes-when-opportunity-calls/. This post reminded me of a movie I watched over a decade ago,  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touching_the_Void_(film)) that taught me an important life lesson, which has served me well since the day I watched it, that I wish to share here with you.

What impacted me the most about Simpson was his approach to the impossible task ahead of him when he realized that his climbing partner had left. The movie (I can only give you a link to the trailer for copyright reasons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9Y6MNyWp6s) goes into a lot more detail about his trip back to base camp than the above article I found on Wikipedia, so if you have the time, watch it first (from your own trustworthy video rental places on line or local stores), before you read on and find me spoiling all the suspense.

At the time I watched the movie I was a different person to what I feel I am today. I was nervous, insecure and easily overwhelmed by the multiple tasks I felt I had to do every day, so you can imagine my awe for Simpson as I watched him crawl his way back to base camp with his broken leg in such extreme conditions! My awe for this achievement has only grown with attending several incidents involving broken legs, seeing the resulting pain first hand in casualties, as a first aider in the last 7 years.

What I remember most was how he dealt with it. Contrary to my own way of looking at tasks, he first set himself an achievable one. He said to himself: “If I can drag myself to that rock over there, I improve my chance of survival”. Then, after he managed to do it, he looked for the next section he could see himself making. He did not dwell on the big picture ahead, but chose to focus on what he expected to be achievable at that moment. The result was an amazing achievement that saved his life!

There are many more benefits that came out of this ordeal as a result of him sharing his experience, that are impossible to see and measure in it’s entirety, with so many people that have seen the movie or read his book. All I can do is share what it has done for me since I have started implementing this life lesson in my own life. I now understand the importance of setting a small achievable task or in other words segmenting the big ones. I do not get overwhelmed any more, feel happier, live more in the “now” and look for more inspiration and life lessons in stories about experiences of others that successfully dealt with their hurdles! You can always find someone who went through more than yourself! This has helped me grow as a person, realize how strong people can be and has even given me better tools to help ease the suffering of the first aid casualties I come across.

I did not realize the full impact this movie had on me until years later, as it took some time for me to change my old ingrained habits, but I am so GLAD I watched it when I did! Have you seen any movies or doco’s that made a big impact on your life? Please share in the comments below. I look forward to your suggestions 😉

With love and gratitude,

Pollyesther