As a seasoned mountaineer who has been on over 100 expeditions, including seven summits of Mount Everest, I am no stranger to spending long periods of time confined to limited spaces, cut off from the rest of the world. In fact, most recently on my climb of Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica, what was supposed to be a 7-day expedition turned into a 21-day sojourn trapped in a tent, battling sub-zero temperatures and harsh winds.
My experiences have taught me several important skills and life lessons. I have learned to use the solitude and isolation to my advantage, by expanding my knowledge, learning new skills, and cultivating hobbies that challenge me.
With the pandemic, our lives came to a sudden halt as we were driven indoors, largely unprepared, in a bid to survive the coronavirus. As the world rapidly defines a new normal, I take this opportunity to share with you some insights that I have gained on how to successfully combat anxiety and transition into this new way of living.
One of the biggest similarities of being on a summit and the current situation with coronavirus is accepting that there are various unknown variables which are not in our control. While it is important to take all precautions to ensure our safety, the most important is to prepare ourselves mentally.
When I am in the mountains, I must be willing to let the mountain have control, because we humans are small compared to it. Similarly, with this pandemic we must accept that we might not have all the answers right now, but if we continue to be patient and build mental toughness, we will, as Favre-Leuba aptly puts, conquer this frontier and emerge victorious.
Maintaining nutrition and health is of paramount importance, particularly in such times. I do not believe in living like a monk, so joining in on the baking trends and treating yourself occasionally is acceptable. However, we must stick to a healthy diet. Good nutrition not only helps to ensure that we stay fit, but it can also do wonders to energy levels and general psychological wellbeing.
Engaging in Hobbies
Another important lesson that the mountains have taught me, is to engage in hobbies and keep your brain busy. On my summits, even when I am counting every single ounce that goes into my backpack, I make sure to carry books or a Kindle, in case I am confined to my tent for a while. I am a voracious reader, and this keeps my mind occupied. Over the last year and a half, I have also been studying on my summits to get my pilot’s license, flying being a hobby of mine. Similarly, I believe it is important to not just work all the time while we are at home, but also take time out for things that interest us, challenge us and exercise our brains.
On summits, it is important to get along with your crew and maintain harmony. A lot of people have been isolating with their families or companions. When you are living in close quarters with someone for a long period of time, it is easy for frictions to arise. However, open and honest communication can really help everyone. It is important to maintain mutual respect and talk about your emotions, while also empathising with what the other person is feeling in these circumstances.
For those living on their own, make use of technology and stay in regular touch with your dear ones. When I am on a solo trip, I carry a satellite communication device which allows me to text people. Being able to stay connected with my family has really helped me become a more confident climber. So, I strongly encourage others to reach out and have conversations over phone with your friends and family.
Hold on to Constants
With the rapid changes around us, it is important to maintain certain old routines for a sense of stability and familiarity. This will be unique to every person based on their experiences. I also have certain constant companions on every trek. The first being Favre-Leuba’s Bivouac9000, an excellent altimeter watch which is a must for every summit. Other essentials are my satellite communication device and my Kindle, as well as my snack bag which is filled with all my favourite, albeit healthy, treats. Lastly, I love my coffee and a hand-held espresso maker helps me to maintain that familiar routine no matter where I am.
All these constants help me remain tethered amid the changing variables around me, be it a new challenging expedition or the coronavirus.
Adrian Ballinger is a seasoned mountaineer and the the brand ambassador for Favre-Leuba – the second oldest active Swiss watch brand.
The article is from our Story Bank. It was first published in April 2021.