Learning the Wim Hof Method has been a life saving tool. It gave me back control over my life at a time when I thought all hope was lost. Doing the breathing and the cold showers are a gift I give to myself everyday.
But, I didn’t start off loving Wim Hof’s Method. I had to go to the very edge of my own darkest time, in order to allow in its light.
What is Wim Hof Method? In the simplest terms, it’s a combination of a breathing technique and cold exposure that can reconnect you to yourself and the world around you. (To learn more, click here).
I first heard about Wim Hof shortly after my vaccine injury and I was not interested. I’d done a lot of different breathing exercises, but this one looked like a lot of work and since I was already struggling with pain, permanent exhaustion and a really high heart rate. I wasn’t even tempted. (I didn’t even entertain the idea of cold showers!)
I pushed away the Wim Hof Method.
But, somehow it just kept pushing back.
In books I was reading, old friends and acquaintances I was talking to, health care providers I was seeing, the Wim Hof Method kept resurfacing.
So, I tried the breathing.
I tried it in that way you try taking cod liver oil and eating more brussel sprouts.
I didn’t love it. (What a surprise).
I found counting the breaths and then counting the time for the breath holds hard (I didn’t know there was an app yet). I found it stressful and exhausting. I was even more convinced that it wasn’t for me.
Then my whole world went to hell.
I mean, I actually already thought I was kind of living in hell (unable to put on socks without taking a break in between because of exhaustion), but I didn’t realize how much worse things could get, until they did.
I had always had some issues with anxiety, but suddenly my life was a never ending panic attack.
I had had panic attacks before, but they had always been about something.
This time, they were just about living. I was panicked about how little energy I had to get through the day, and then further panicked about how much extra energy panicking was taking… I’m sure you can see how the spiral went.
After a week of non-stop panic, I would have done anything to make it stop.
I ended up at the Crisis Response Centre (which is like emergency for mental health) and then armed with prescriptions for panic and anxiety I went back home.
They sort of worked.
I stayed alive and was sort of functioning.
But, I felt like I was locked in a room with a tiger in a wooden cage. I was aware of the anxiety and the edge of panic all the time and I wondered how long it would take before that wooden cage wouldn’t hold it anymore.
Then, it happened. I woke up in a full panic attack again. I felt broken and helpless. I wrestled for hours with the panic, wondering if I needed more medication, and if I had the strength to do this again.
Desperate for something to do, I tried Wim Hof’s breathing.
It was so hard to get the breaths in and out. It was so hard to keep going, to hold my breath when I felt like I was slowly imploding.
But, it helped.
After three rounds, my shaking had subsided enough that I could get out of bed and make it downstairs. I was still a wreck, but I had a glimmer of hope.
The next morning I awoke again in a full panic attack. This time I didn’t wait, I started doing the Wim Hom breathing right away.
The first few rounds were excruciating. Every breath was an effort (each round I was doing had 30 breaths), but that tiny glimmer of hope kept me going. I knew what would happen if I didn’t do the Wim Hof and it felt unbearable.
I can’t remember if I did 6 or 8 rounds that day.
What I will always remember is that I was able to breathe myself back to calm.
That was five months ago. I have done five rounds of breathing every morning since (and usually another 3-5 in the afternoon) and I haven’t had any anxiety that I couldn’t deal with in that time.
Wim Hof is first aid for the nervous system. It’s a ticket out of your loud, hectic mind (that is busy replaying the past or guessing the future) and into the calm of your body (that is always waiting in the here and now).
It hasn’t cured my health problems, but it has decreased my pain, improved my mobility, almost eliminated my head aches, decreased my heart rate and improved my energy.
It has also renewed my hope that I will continue to improve and one day be well again.