Three sources of strength to fight the daily stress

Hospital routine is exhausting: Many patients, little time, and a plethora of administrative tasks to be taken care of. Even those who are well structured reach their limits. Quick solutions from outside are usually not in sight. There is only one thing that helps: toughen yourself!

Stress – who does not know that? High demands at work, but also the little issues in the family or the hectic pace of traffic trigger a reaction in the body. For example, cortisone and adrenaline enable the body to cope with stress. Subjectively, the person is temporarily in top form. But constant stress without rest overtaxes the system. Permanent stress can trigger or abet various diseases. It has a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, on the skin, but also on metabolic conditions and on the immune system – not to mention mental problems and depression.

Mental strength – a psycho thing?

Although a lot of physical communication takes place during stress, in many cases it is only at a late stage that the physical signals are identified as a result of everyday stress. In the case of emotional effects, which can also manifest as sadness, anger or aggression, stress is more easily suspected. When searching for guides on how to gain mental strength, it should therefore come as no surprise that the first “hits” on the net all deal with the modulation of thoughts. Cognitively coming to terms with one’s limits requires a lot of patience, and possibly a psychologist or coach as a sparring partner in order to develop more strength. It is usually a matter of changing one’s attitude, sometimes also one’s lifestyle. This can be a very complex task. A different or possibly complementary approach is taken by Wim Hof aka “The Iceman”.


The role of breathing, cold and mind

For years, the Dutch extreme athlete has been demonstrating that stress can be countered through breathing exercises, cold adaptation and focus or willpower.1 This does not reduce everyday stress, but enables the body to handle it more easily. With the three mainstays of his method, Hof works not on the psyche, but on the hormone and nervous system that reacts to stress.

The individual building blocks of his method have been known for a long time and are effective, as Prof. Andreas Michalsen, chief physician for naturopathy at the Charité in Berlin, has also emphasised.2 However, Hof has deftly combined breathing, cold adaptation and meditation.

What matters when it comes to breathing

Wim Hof explains his breathing technique to anyone who wants to know more in a free “mini-class“, a compact online video:

  • Inhalation should be deep into the abdomen, chest and head, followed by relaxed exhalation.
  • These intensive breaths should be taken 30 times in a row.
  • The body may start to tingle. Dizziness may occur. Therefore, it is better to do the exercise lying down.
  • After the 30 breaths, it is important to hold your breath for as long as possible, preferably for two minutes.
  • Initially this may fail. But there is usually an improvement in sight as early as during the second round.
  • Anyone who feels the urge to breathe should do so and then hold the inhaled air again for as long as possible.

Then the second and third round commence. The result of the breathing exercise is a better oxygen supply to the cells. The blood pH rises briefly, i.e. the blood becomes more alkaline. This is a signal for the immune system and also for the nervous system. They become active and awake.


The challenge of cold adaptation

While the breathing exercise sounds still relatively feasible, the topic of cold adaptation rather makes the hairs on the back of one’s neck stand up. In the “mini-class”, Hof shows how he does it:

  • First, take a warm shower to allow the many miles of vessels in our body to dilate. The tissues are well perfused with blood.
  • Then reduce the water temperature – ideally to 12 to 13 °C (53 – 54 °K).
  • Carefully immerse yourself in the cold water with your hands and feet, later with your back.
  • It would be good to hold out for two minutes. Each day a little longer.

The cold triggers physical stress. The vessels become narrower. The pulse, the heart rate drops. Cold adaptation trains the body to handle this stressful situation.

More success through mental strength

The third pillar of the Wim Hof method seems to be less specific, yet the decisive key to success. The expert appeals to use one’s own will and to focus in order to be able to successfully counter stress factors. According to Hof, thinking is one’s own tool, the neurological muscle. He sees the cold as a teacher. For according to him, the cold is a stressor just like e.g. emotional stress. Focusing the mind makes it possible to cope better with stress. The Wim Hof method has been trending for some time, so there are not only field reports2,3 but also research papers on the effects of this method.4,5


Field reports and research

In studies and reports, most subjects felt refreshed and strong from the breathing, cold exercises and mental focus. They were usually themselves amazed at their performance improvements. Michalsen confirms positive effects e.g. on autoimmune diseases and high blood pressure.2 Colds may become less frequent.3

In one of the studies, for example, 12 volunteers trained in the Hof method and 12 untrained volunteers received an endotoxin injection.5 The Hof group suffered significantly less from flu-like symptoms and nausea after injection than the control group did. An increase in adrenaline levels was measured in the blood of the Hof subjects as early as 30 minutes before the injection. This could be positively and willingly influenced by them. The increase in blood pH resulted in inactivity of the pain receptors.


Tips for practice

Anyone who feels stressed in everyday life and can hardly change their situation in the short term could start an individual experiment. Good advice even for the non-stressed, it seems. It is easy to do – even for warm-bathing wimps.


To the document: four practical tips to deal with mental stress





Die Wim Hof Methode

Hof, Wim
Integral, 2021


Meister deines Lebens

Dr. Bösenkopf, Brigitte
Remote Verlag, 2021


The Wim Hof Method

Hof, Wim
Penguin Books, 2022


Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

Nestor, James
Penguin Books, 2020


La méthode Wim Hof

Hof, Wim


Anti Stress

Dr. Gourion, David
Marabout, 2022


  1., last accessed 18.01.2023
  2., last accessed on 17.01.2023

  3., last accessed 18.01.2023

  4. Otto Muzik et al; NeuroImage, Volume 172, 2018, 632-641,, last accessed 03.02.2023

  5. Kox M et al; Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 May 20;111(20):7379-84., last accessed 03 Feb 2023


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