Ever feel "butterflies" in your stomach before a big meeting because you are afraid you may mess up? Waves of anxiety about your current or future finances? Can’t sleep thinking about another failed or failing relationship? Constantly worried you are unhealthy or something is wrong with you?
How much time, effort and energy do we spend depressed about the past or anxious about the future? More importantly, how is this mental state affecting our mind and bodies?
I used to constantly feel the need to "future trip" about the what if's and how to's of tomorrow and beyond. The effect of going through the roller coaster of ensuing emotions was extremely detrimental to my overall mental and physical health. What I didn't realize at the time just how much of an impact this distress was having on my body.
Anxious seemed to be my default internal state. I remember feeling flooded by waves of anxiety when I would be lying safely in my bed at times at night. I couldn't get out of my head and it was starting to affect my work, my relationships and my health, all in a negative way.
Luckily, the path of trying to naturally beat anxiety and depression led me to learning the Wim Hof Method. I initially was intrigued by the WHM to learn more about coping with pain and inflammation from a back injury. What I found by practicing the WHM for my back pain was an awesome side effect. I was able to deal with stressful life events way better than before. I also started feeling less stressed and anxious all the time. Talk about a bonus!
My internal state was moving from mostly anxious to a calm, but alert state that I have only been able to find by practicing the Wim Hof Method. Now, the stresses that come up —such as bills, traffic, cleaning up after two toddlers, and trying to figure out what I am going to do when I grow up— do not have nearly the impact that they used to.
How Does the Wim Hof Method Help Deal with Modern Day Stress?
One way the Wim Hof Method allows me to manage modern day stress is by actively and consciously putting myself in states of stress (i.e. getting in cold f#ck!ng water) and then focusing on relaxing and calming myself down from the immediate stress of the cold. This type of stress is called eustress, and is considered to be a beneficial type of stress (similar to exercise). By practicing this, my body seems to no longer be as overwhelmed by other stress stimuli, resulting in me feeling less affected by the stresses of daily life.
In addition, when I do feel stressed out, I now know how to bring myself out of it because it is something I regularly practice. This has not only impacted my life, but also the lives of the people that I am closest with.
The breathing and focus techniques allow me to center myself in the present moment by feeling my breath going in and out. This sounds simple, but it is extremely important for me when it comes to "getting out of my own head". By doing deep, conscious breathing, I am aligning my mind and body in the present moment. When I feel my mind slipping out of the present and into a rabbit hole of stress, I can consciously steer it back to my breath, which immediately puts my mind and body back at ease.
My morning routine involves the breathing, focus and cold exposure of the Wim Hof Method. By doing this routine every morning, I allow my nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system and endocrine system to not only get exercised, but also to hit a reset. If you are one that "wakes up on the wrong side of the bed" too often, then I would highly recommend incorporating the Wim Hof Method into your morning routine. This can allow you to be the "alchemist of your own chemistry" as Wim would say. Talk about turning that frown upside down!
I also think it's important to note the conscious awareness and connection that I have developed with my body now by having regularly practiced the WHM. This consciousness, coupled with the Method, allows me to toggle between the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) or "fight or flight" and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) or "rest and digest". This is vital when it comes to managing chronic stress levels.
With all of the stresses that can come up in day to day life (bills, work deadlines, rioting kids, poor health, failed relationships, etc.) it is very easy to stay in that sympathetic state, causing a cascade of potentially harmful side effects. Having a deeper conscious awareness of when my body is in fight or flight (and I don't want or need it to be) I can now chill myself out just by being conscious of how I breathe... so powerful!
The Wim Hof Method for Corporate Stress Management
With 15+ years of experience working in call centers and corporate office buildings for sales and operations management, I can attest to the various stresses that are common to this environment. Especially when we spend so much of our precious time on our careers.
Work is a necessity for most in today's society. Unfortunately, the culture of sitting all day, while stressing over deadlines, eating junk food, and not getting enough exercise, is severely damaging to our overall health, attitude and demeanor.
For 1 ½ years, I practiced the Wim Hof Method while working in a corporate sales environment before I became a WHM Instructor. It was your typical call center cube farm and I worked your typical Monday to Friday 8 to 5, and everything that comes along with that. Germs, junk food, and lots of stressed out people trying to reach deadlines and quotas.
I can attest that by hitting "reset" on some of my vital human systems by practicing the Method before I went to work made a huge impact on my ability to deal with the daily grind of quotas and processes. I found that I was happier overall, and that carried over to me being happier at my job. Once I was happier and not as stressed at work, my performance improved.
The stress of having a sales goal (which, based on my performance, determined my employment) seemed to impact me less and less the deeper I explored the WHM. It came at a great time, too, as my job was getting more and more stressful every day, with upper level management changes and looming acquisitions. I was able to find some calm among the chaos and uncertainty, and that was reflected in my work performance and daily attitude.
Another huge corporate stressor for me was the fact that I was in a sedentary position for the majority of the day, especially when I was busy. Sure, I would take walks and do some cube yoga to get my blood flowing, but the years of sitting behind a computer screen was starting to take its toll. I was able to relieve a lot of the stress on my body, as my circulation improved and my lower back pain was reduced by practicing the Wim Hof Method. This resulted in me feeling better, which made me happier and less stressed out, especially while at work.
Another issue I would have at work that would cause me stress was my ability to focus. Sitting still and focusing has never been my strong suit. I have to admit that I’m guilty, on more than one occasion, of being AT work and doing everything at my computer BUT working. I just couldn't seem to focus on the task at hand. Instead I was checking every online account I have ever opened, watching every video on YouTube ever made, reading every article on ESPN, and surfing the web for any random thought that would pop in my mind.
"As soon as I finish this article I will follow up on that proposal."
"Once I watch this umpteenth YouTube video I will send this report over."
Then I would have a barrage of calls and emails that I would have to follow-up on, PLUS the stuff I procrastinated on. These waves of business would cause me a tremendous amount of stress and was mainly caused by my inability to focus.
Once I started practicing the WHM as my part of my morning pre-work routine, I noticed I came in with laser like focus and energy as a result of the techniques. This increased focus and energy allowed me to get ahead of the waves of being busy by procrastinating way less, and to actually be proactive on certain tasks. This better balance allowed me to be way less stressed out and resulted in greater productivity.
Bottom line... The Wim Hof Method can positively impact your work performance for the better, and one crucial way it does that is by better allowing your body to process and internalize the stress associated with your job. This will have a net positive effect on, you guessed it... your bottom line.
Everyone is unique in their own special way and everyone deals with chronic stress differently. That being said, the WHM can become the most powerful tool in your tool belt for managing stress, once you have had some formal training and regular practice.
The formal training can allow you to better understand the science behind the method, so you can begin to work with your body instead of against it when it comes to managing stress. The regular practice will optimize your human systems and give you a better mind-body connection so you can feel less stressed out more often.
Remember, life is short and very precious. Enjoy the experiences and savor the moments. Stop stressing (especially over what is out of your control) and just breathe! Happiness, health and strength to all!
Michael McTate is a certified WHM Instructor, based out of Fort Collins, Colorado.