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The power of the mind

Im counting down the days until I set off for greenland! find out more here and track the expedition.

During my walk around New Zealand I learnt things about myself that I didn't even know were possible. I learnt about corners of my mind that I would have preferred to have stayed hidden. What did I expect, walking around endless coast line, alone, with days stretching ahead of me as far as I could think. The monotonous thud of my boots in the sand, not knowing when I would see someone, when I would talk to someone, when It would be over.

When you are preparing for an expedition or an athletic competition, people ask about your training, how much training you have done, how fit you are. This is always in regards to your physical fitness. It is so rare that people ask about what head space you are in, what mental training you have done and whether you are mentally prepared for what you might experience between your ears on a big expedition. I learnt so much on my New Zealand circumnavigation. I learnt about the native bush, the history of New Zealand, the animals that live here and how little food I needed to be able to walk day after day. I learnt that 99% of the time, its the mind that gives up before the body. There is this amazing Australian athlete called Jared Tallent, he is an olympic walker. Jared’s legs gave out just as he had entered the stadium to win gold, this is the other 1%. Often, people are not ok with being uncomfortable. If someone is thirsty they will get a drink, if they are hungry they will have something to eat, if they are tired they will have a break and rest. We often don't think, ‘I’m thirsty but thats ok I can keep going’. We don't seem to realize you can easily go 8 to 24 hours without food or water and be ok. Yes you might be thirsty and tired but you will survive. Put this theory into perspective with a big expedition. I was walking down the west coast of the south island, I had only eaten leaves and roots for the past three days, I hadn't had any human contact for a week, my hands were covered in wounds and my sinuses were full of blood from a fall I had taken the day before. I was starving, freezing, lonely and in pain. My legs hadn't given up, my hands were sore but still working fine, it was my mind that gave up on me. I had had enough, I was over it, I didn't collapse because I had pushed my body to the point of exhaustion, I had pushed my mind to the edge and I couldn't take anymore. I broke down in tears and started screaming at the sky blubbering like an infant. If you can teach yourself, your mind, to be able to be stronger in these scenarios, you will be amazed by what you can achieve. Pulling on memories that have strong emotions attached to them helped to keep me grounded. It helped my mind come back to reality when I was spiraling into the depths of my brain. It’s not nice feeling stuck in your head in a place you can’t escape.

Some tips to help:

1. Accept what you are doing and why you are doing it

2. Food and water is so important to keep your mind healthy and functional, don’t let yourself go too long without sustenance, it’s one thing to be uncomfortable but it’s another to be pushed until you are hysterical

3. Make sure you leave on good terms because otherwise you will go over and over anything negative that hasn’t been resolved. There is no doubt that during an expedition like this one some dark places will be visited in your mind. Accept that this will happen. After a few days on the ice looking at nothing other than white ice (and if your lucky my plump bottom) your head will truly be up in the clouds. You will find ways to deal with these thoughts and when you return to the real world hopefully they won’t be a problem anymore. Everyone is different. I’m a highly emotional individual with a hyperactive brain. This could affect how my mind copes with these situations. Others may find a similar scenario easy to deal with, or they might have great mental and emotional control. You never know until you put yourself into the situation. Different people struggle with different things and it is so important to remember we are not the same. The mind is such a powerful tool, look after it or, use it wisely, and nothing can stop you.

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