The “Thin Ice” Between Fear and Courage

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I often ask myself what is my biggest fear and weakness in this world. I have many weaknesses and fears but the one that I face the most in my daily life is the COLD. During winter seasons, I always have to dress up in layers so I can make sure the cold doesn’t penetrate my clothes to reach my skin.

I came to the realization that this was indeed debilitating. I decided to do something about it. The one thing I could think about was to face my fear, rather than shielding myself against it. I could not let fears control any aspect of my life, because I wanted to be in control of my body and mind, not my fears.

 

 

Enter Wim Hof!

I’d heard about Wim Hof before, but just as some sort of a superhero who had ultimate control over his mind to overcome any challenges, he set for himself. I did some research about him, and I learned he had a 30-Day Cold Shower Challenge.  I thought, this would be my first battle with the “cold”, and what better way to start this battle than in my own shower every morning. This would be a great way to get myself out of my comfort zone. But this was not enough motivation for me to start facing my fear. Therefore, I started to research about health benefits of taking cold showers. What I found was astonishing, the benefits include:

  • Taking a cold shower for a few seconds can stimulate the immune system. It uses the heat created by the body’s activity to produce more white blood cells and develop stronger immunity to toxins.
  • Cold water showers help the hair and skin’s health and appearance. I saw a big difference in my hair and skin after the 15th day of the challenge.
  • Taking a cold shower before bedtime also helps with having a good night sleep and fighting insomnia.
  • Cold Showers are excellent for boosting your metabolism and digestive system.
  • Something that can help men to consider this challenge is that, taking cold showers increases testosterone levels in men.
  • Lastly but the most importantly, the reason for me to do the cold shower was to increase the level of self-discipline and condition my mind to get comfortable with uncomfortable situations.

I started the 30-Day challenge and I can’t say that I was flawless and followed the plan as exactly as scripted. I had days which I could only stay under the cold water for 15 to 30 seconds instead of 1minute. But I was still extremely proud of myself to be able to embed such habit in my daily routine.

If you are also interested to challenging your mind to get more comfortable in uncomfortable situations; then you can find the link to the challenge below:

https://explore.wimhofmethod.com/coldshowerchallenge/

After doing the 30-Day Cold Water Challenge, I wanted to challenge myself further with regard to facing my fear of the cold. So, I promptly dove deep into finding an ice bath challenge to test my Self-discipline and my cold tolerance after discipling myself to go through the cold shower challenge.

I signed up for the Wim Hof Method Fundamental Workshop. Once I got there, the weather was already cold and I didn’t have any warm jacket, so my chattering mind started to question my own decision to attend this workshop. What the hell I was thinking to get myself in this situation. The funny part was that my mind was regretting this situation even before stepping foot into an ice bath itself.

So, the workshop started with a little lecture about the 3 pillars of the Wim Hof Method: Breathing Technique, Cold Exposure and commitment.

Then we jumped right into the breathing technique exercise. Below are the steps of different breathing techniques.

You lay on your back and place one hand on your chest, the other hand on your stomach. The instructor starts to demonstrate fundamentals of breathing techniques.

  1. Breathing through your stomach. You feel the hand on your stomach move up and down with your stomach. The hand on the chest stays still.
  2. Breathing through your Chest. You feel the hand on your stomach stays still. The hand on the chest moves up and down with your chest.
  3. Breathing through your diaphragm. You move the hands to your diaphragm and feel the diaphragm expands as you inhale and contracts as you exhale.
  4. Breathing through your back. You feel your back exerts pressure to the floor when you inhale and comes to neutral as you exhale.
  5. Combine everything. As you inhale, expand your stomach, then diaphragm, chest and back. As you exhale, the stomach, diaphragm, chest and back contracts.

Through this exercise I learned the importance of breathing. This prepared us for the next challenge which was the ice bath.

There was a stock tank full of ice and water. Our instructor was the first one who went in the ice water to show us how to relax and focus on the breath. He took control of his breathing; I noticed his breath had a steady rhythm. Then everyone in the class started to go into the ice bath one after another. As I saw every individual get in the ice water, I would feel the chill in my bones. By the time I got in the lane, I was the last person and I had to see everyone got into the ice water before me. I was shivering the whole time and my mind kept discouraging me… “Why? Why did I decide to do this?”

Then finally, it was my turn. The instructor told me to get in. It was in that moment where I silenced my mind and got into the water without even a second thought. I knew if I hesitated, then I would never get in that ice water.

I got into the water in a blink of an eye. In that moment I felt that my heart was going to stop. I started to breathe fast and heavy. Then 30 second into it, I realized that I was not going to die, so I started to relax into the experience and enjoy myself. Here, I started to take control over my breath and to observe my body and all its sensations. My hands and feet were extremely cold, to a point where I could barely feel them. But I didn’t care because it was a beautiful moment where my mind was fully present. I could feel my heart beating and my blood rushing from my hands and feet to my heart.

 

 

Being in the ice water was a moment where I learned how beautiful it could be to face my fears, where I could completely let go of my previous doubts and limits to what my own potential could be.  I felt empowered by my unlimited potential and the strength of my mind. That was the moment when I was fully facing the cause of my “fear” and observing the monster that I’d created entirely in my head. I realized very much here that much of our fears are created within the boundaries of our mind and does not exist within the physical world we live in. For me, the anticipation of the dread and discomfort of being submerged in ice water was more dreadful than the experience of being in the ice water. Thus, participating in the experience and observing it without any judgment was very enjoyable.

 

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