Stress is everyone’s arch-nemesis, the villain in your life story that is holding you back from achieving your goals. Although its fun to compare it to a fictitious antagonist, stress is very real, with very real consequences if gone unchecked.
Research has found Stress at the root of higher risks of heart attacks, strokes, and major chronic conditions. Yet, if you ask around (co-workers, family, gym buddies) most people don’t do anything to combat stress.
You see the issue is not stress. The issue is not having the tools and systems in place to combat stress. Stress is a good thing, it allows our bodies to adapt and grow, but when gone unchecked, it can lead to chronic stress.
Many of the tools taught ultimately are to get you from a stressed, fight or flight response (sympathetic) to rest and recovery (parasympathetic) state.
When you first hear about stress and managing stress, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind. Most will mention, yoga or meditation. Others talk about exercise and eating better. But very few people know of the impact of breathwork, mindfulness, and cold exposure can do to help manage stress.
The Wim Hof Method
If you haven’t heard of the Ice Man, check out his vice documentary here. So why bring up the crazy dutchman when talking about tools to manage stress? He created a method to take back control during times of stress (like in the cold) and affect what once was thought impossible, you’re autonomic nervous system (regulates heart rate, digestion, and pupillary response.)
So if you’re like me, stressed out and lacking the tools to combat stress, here is a quick explanation of his three pillars.
Breathwork has been shown as a powerful tool to go from a fight or flight state of mind to a calm and relaxed state very quickly. And more important consciously. This means you can choose to calm down and relax by controlling your breathing patterns. Breathwork has been shown to ease anxiety, depression and other stress-related issues as well.
Deep diaphragm breathing allows for a greater oxygen exchange, which not only helps with energy but can slow the heartbeat and lower blood pressure.Harvard Medical School
Breathwork is also a practice of focus. By focusing on nothing but your breath you can take a mental break from the 101 things that are on your to-do list.
Gradual cold gives you the opportunity to practice your breath work to take control of a stressful situation. The more you practice taking back control from stress, the better you get at managing stress. Regular cold exposure can make you more resilient to stress.
Regular cold exposure has many health benefits as well. It helps train your circulatory system to become more efficient (lowering blood pressure), helps flush metabolic waste from your body, and lowers inflammation from intense exercise.
Taking ice baths is a practice that has been around for ages. Even in civilizations that typically used hot water for bathing, people occasionally immersed themselves in freezing cold water. The reason is that ice baths are linked to several health benefits. Unsurprisingly, nowadays people still use ice baths to increase their health and overall wellbeing. You can easily experience the power of the cold yourself by incorporating the Wim Hof Method into your daily life. Many people from all over the world are already using the method to become a stronger, happier, and healthier individual.Wim Hof Method
Breathwork and cold exposure are both mindfulness practices. To quiet the mind and bring you to the present. Too often we focus on the past, or what is to come of the future, and this is a large portion of what is causing us stress. By focusing on your breath, your reaction to the cold, you bring yourself to the present. These tools allow you to quiet the mind, which in turn relaxes the body.
Experiencing is beliving
My own journey into stress management, over the last three years, has resulted in me becoming a Certified Wim Hof Instructor.
There is plenty of science backing the Wim Hof Method, but Wim always said “experiencing is believing“. Join me Saturday, November 16th, in Costa Mesa, CA for my Fundamentals of the Wim Hof Method workshop. Click here to learn more.