Think like a survivor
Survival expert Megan Hine keeps people safe on The Island with Bear Grylls, but she also knows a thing or two about using the mental strength we learn in the mountains in our every day life.
When climbing a mountain it is almost always the summit that is celebrated not the fact that they returned safely back down. As a mountaineer of physical mountains or the mountains created by the mind, the truth is you only get to grow and develop if you make it back safely.
With the advent of social media, there is ever more pressure to showcase the summit moments, the highs of life. Looking at the pictures others post of their successful, adventurous lives can make our summit moments less vivid and the valley moments more pronounced and full of shadows. ‘Why is our life so boring? Why am I unhappy?’ What we do not see is the journey behind those images, the mountains they themselves have scaled, the dark valleys they have wandered to get to that point.
The skills required to scale physical mountains teach us many lessons which can be applied to everyday life. Here are a few fundamental skills any mountaineer should have within their tool kit.
Learn to navigate
When the weather is fine, navigation is easy but when the clouds roll in and visibility reduces do you have the skills to keep you safe? Resilience is built by exposure to many different experiences and grows through overcoming hurdles and learning to deal with potentially overwhelming emotions. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone on a regular basis allows growth to occur. This is where the outdoors is a fantastic training ground. Either getting outside with more experienced friends, a guide or an instructor who can help you build confidence in yourself and hone your skills.
Mountain rescue teams will tell you that so many of their call outs could be prevented by people wearing the correct clothing for the environment. The same can be said for emotional mountaineering. If we clothe ourselves with the appropriate mindset the foul weather can bounce off our shell and cause nothing more than mild inconvenience. Work out what works best by practicing in everyday situations which will cause mild discomfort rather than put you at peril. Being adaptable is key.
Pick your team wisely
Often when I lead or guide on expeditions there is at least one person in the group who is an energy drainer. Usually they haven’t learnt how to “clothe” themselves properly or are oblivious to the fact that they are metaphorically running round naked and require energy from others to warm themselves.
Surrounding ourselves with positive, grounded individuals who get us and understand our goals is key. Equally, as the lead climber it is important to respect those within your team, give thanks and be there for them.
Expecting the unexpected and preparing for the worst-case scenario is key for survival. This is not about living in fear and imagining the worst in every scenario but being prepared. The way I prepare my mind is to run scenarios through my mind. I call it ‘scenario planning’. What would I do if my client tripped and fell off the edge of path? What would I do if the plane goes down? I then work through step by step the actions I would take. You can do this with everyday scenarios too. Always ensure you are the hero in these scenarios. This keeps the mind awake, and will empower you to take action calmly and confidently when necessary.
Have a back-up
Summit fever and fear of missing out (FOMO) are real things. It can squash logical reasoning and encourage you to take unnecessary risks. These have been known to claim lives in both the wilderness and everyday life. Learning to analyse where your motivation comes from and listening to your intuition and the environment around you are important. Have a plan B and the flexibility to look around for other options. Understand your limits and learn to say no.
With the modern world constantly keeping us connected and switched on it is hard to not get caught up in the rush, or feel like we should be constantly chasing goals and adventure. In-built survival mechanisms like the stress response was designed to be a quick hit to prepare the body to fight or run. Being hit by a constant barrage of stimulation our stress response has he potential to be constantly switched on leading to detrimental chronic health conditions. Learning to step back occasionally or learning how to find a pace which keeps you moving forwards but enjoying life rather than hurtling through in a blur will give you the space required to look around and enjoy the view and the journey.
Everyone experiences emotional highs and lows whether on expedition, when climbing physical mountains or in day-to-day life. If the lows outweigh any other emotion it is time to reach out and talk to someone. Someone who can help put things into perspective, someone who can help us step back from the pixel we live in and see the entire picture. Admitting and acknowledging something is wrong is the first step to healing. It is part and parcel of being this incredibly complex but beautiful species of animal that is the human being.
Find out more about Megan here