The place of discomfort is something we are becoming all too familiar with in these times of pandemic and climate disasters. Acknowledging the discomfort and sitting with it, focussing the mind and breath to overcome the feelings that arise are important for our mental health.
A couple of weeks ago I watched a Russell Brand (one of my favourites) video on the Wim Hof method. He was doing a 30 day challenge of breath work and cold baths to enhance wellbeing of both mind and body. Now, I hate the cold, and cold water in particular, but the breathing exercise looked interesting, so I tried it. I was surprised that I couldn't take many open mouth large breaths at first, it was difficult. I kept up the practice until I could take the 30 full breaths, but meanwhile also challenged myself to try cold showers (on tank water baths have to be limited). This turned out to be a lot better than I expected, even on the first 4 degree morning, using focus and control of the breath helps to alleviate the shock of the cold water.
According to the Wim Hof website: 'Exposing your body to cold conditions on a regular basis can make you more resilient to stress. As your body adjusts to the cold, the vagus nerve is stimulated, which is connected to many important organs by means of the parasympathetic nervous system. The resulting increase in parasympathetic activity has positive effects on all kinds of conditions such as anxiety, depression, and gut problems.'
For me, the benefits have been enormous. Even therapists have times of mental health challenges, that is why we have ongoing supervision and counselling sessions, in order to always be fully present for our clients with compassion and empathy. The important thing for us is to have self awareness and the willingness to deal with issues as they arise, before they become a problem.
I had been feeling a little unmotivated, putting off jobs that needed doing, even depressed at times, frustrated with the ongoing COVID situation and lack of action on climate change. Now I start each day feeling charged with energy, able to work through tasks, feeling both physically and mentally stronger. I have discovered that cold water eases muscle aches and pains much better than warm, and this plus the breath work will now be a regular daily routine for me. With my 70th (how did I get so old?!) birthday approaching much too fast and with much I still want to do, I need to be mentally and physically in peak condition. Image: Wim Hof Twitter page