Whereas the pandemic modified lives in ways in which most had by no means skilled earlier than, Fiann Paul was higher ready. The Icelander isn’t any stranger to fixed companionship, stress, frustration and discomfort. Over six record-setting expeditions, Paul has spent greater than 160 days within the confines of a row boat with a number of different drained, hungry and cranky colleagues.

The story of his most up-to-date effort, the place he led a 600-mile row throughout the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica in 2019, is documented in The Unattainable Row, a documentary now streaming on Discovery+.

These experiences alone would qualify him as an skilled on how to deal with the persevering with psychological challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. However Paul can also be a psychoanalyst. He defended his thesis on the Carl Jung Institute in Zurich earlier this month.

The mix of accolades and lived expertise makes the holder of 33 Guinness World Information uniquely positioned to assist the remainder of us emerge from these onerous occasions mentally stronger than earlier than.

MEN’S JOURNAL: How has the pandemic and lockdown been for you?
FIANN PAUL: It has not been very straightforward. Typically after I’m giving a lecture I ask a query: ‘Who do you suppose would win in a combat between a tiger and a shark?’ The reply is: It relies upon the place. The one in its native atmosphere will win. For explorers, problem is the native atmosphere and due to this fact it is vitally tough to outperform them in tough situations. In distinction, every day life and leisure are sometimes hardships for us.

For me, what was particularly difficult was figuring out at residence. When sport is your occupation, figuring out will not be enjoyable. You’re at all times pushing actually onerous. That’s why I by no means take heed to the music I actually like after I work out, lest I taint it with an affiliation with discomfort. Understanding at residence has an analogous impact on the best way I understand my residence. Critical regime-based sweating at house is simply not enjoyable.


How would Jung have suggested us to do to deal with the pandemic and lockdowns?
On probably the most normal degree, Jung would say that difficulties are mandatory for growth. I believe that the lockdown is a chance for many people, particularly career-focused Western males, to lastly decelerate. It is a chance to study extra about ourselves and really feel a bit extra. Additionally it is a superb alternative to take the time to ponder one’s path and the standard of 1’s path in life, as a substitute of strolling it mindlessly. Jung would most definitely additionally encourage creativity similar to writing or art work.


What do you do?
My expertise working as a therapist has made me conclude that there are three principal components stopping despair, which I each domesticate in myself and encourage others to domesticate: 60 % bodily exercise, together with common sleep and wholesome meals; 30 % contact with nature; 10 % friendships. All these components are severely restricted through the lockdown.

However what we additionally know is that on the planet of enterprise, necessity, reasonably than funding, generates probably the most helpful innovations. Our minds work equally. A state of full consolation truly isn’t optimum.

So we must be glad for this hardship as a result of it should make us stronger? Unpack that for us.
Like muscle tissues rising from weightlifting, minds attain their potential when uncovered to some degree of frustration. With out sufficient weight, our muscle tissues gained’t develop and an excessive amount of weight will injure us. An optimally pissed off, and thus properly educated, thoughts develops resilience as a core high quality. Such resilience is an important attribute.

Psychologists name this ‘optimum frustration.’ It’s outlined as a irritating expertise that stimulates the event of the maximal potential of a person. Every of us is psychologically characterised by a sure optimum threshold of frustration which, as soon as addressed, stimulates the utmost potential of persona to be developed.


How do you discover the optimum quantity of frustration and the place ought to we search for it?
Each impediment in life is a irritating expertise. The primary signal of exceeding the optimum degree of frustration is a big improve in irritability. However frustration as an expertise isn’t solely measured on one axis. We now have many facets that relate to the encompassing world, and every has its personal standards. Relating to one’s profession, we could take a look at the continuum of stress as being a barometer, however a scarcity of which means or success will be simply as irritating. One may function properly at excessive ranges of stress, however nonetheless really feel full lack of success in what we’re doing. You will need to guarantee that neither threshold of frustration is exceeded.

What’s probably the most optimally pissed off you’ve been?
A few of the finest weightlifting for my thoughts has been my rowing expeditions. On these expeditions, whereas within the cabin, I’m often in a cramped, chilly, moist, darkish area. Throughout a storm you’re usually sharing it with somebody, whereas waves the scale of buildings buffet the boat. It actually seems like a collision with a truck. That is all with out the standard comforts of enough sleep, meals, and hygiene, and sometimes whereas injured. Humidity, which stays at 100% on polar oceans, places the best toll on one’s psychological state. Your sleeping bag feels as if a bucket of water was simply poured on it, with out exaggeration.

Throughout such expeditions I felt for the primary time what it means to wrestle with protecting hope. Such intense deprivation of all these primary comforts makes a month forward of you are feeling like an eternity. The extreme stress makes hoping for issues sooner or later incomprehensible.

What would usually make me maintain on was figuring out that it may very well be worse. The degrees of consolation that we’re used to will not be loved by the overwhelming majority of the world. After I really feel hopeless on expeditions, I at all times remind myself how individuals endure comparable or worse deprivations of consolation of their every day lives, typically each day, but handle to stay impressively joyful.


What else helps you push by way of the powerful occasions?
Mature psychological defenses, like humor, versus immature defenses, similar to appearing out or blaming. Humanity has carried out very properly laughing at our personal helplessness and it is a very wholesome therapy for our psyche. For instance, I pranked the constructing the place I dwell by posting an elaborate announcement ostensibly from the constructing committee, written in scientific jargon, stating: “because of ongoing analysis on the advantages of chilly publicity, heat water can be disconnected this winter. The analysis nevertheless is freed from cost.”

What recommendation do you’ve for getting together with different individuals—whether or not it’s your accomplice or your expedition mate—in confined areas and nerve-racking experiences?
I solely search for loopy individuals as rowing crew mates [laughing]. In the course of the expedition I deal with the objective and attempt to suppress the sensation of discomfort. Relating to residing in an condominium with one other individual, some problem is to be anticipated; relationships don’t flourish when neither accomplice has sufficient area to themselves.

For us, residing in developed nations, it’s also a brand new and tough expertise when our capability to regulate our environment is considerably diminished. We all know that divorce fee is rising now. So so long as it’s attainable, I might suggest taking a brief break by your self and attempting to get in touch with nature. Nature reduces stress hormone ranges for fairly just a few days. Nature could also be a 30-minute drive away, however from a purely sensible perspective, it’s value it!

If you happen to can’t entry nature, attempt to channel all of your vitality into creativity or one thing developmental. Perhaps begin on-line research and attempt to think about that that is just like the expedition objective, which is extra vital than the discomfort on this second.

impossible row crew
The Unattainable Row crew, left to proper: Colin O’Brady, Andrew Towne, Captain Fiann Paul, Jamie Douglass-Hamilton, John Peterson and Cameron Bellamy. Discovery


The rest you’d like so as to add?
Well-known explorer Ernest Shackleton believed that explorers must be geared up with a mix of attitudes: ‘First optimism, then persistence, subsequent idealism, and final of all braveness.’ These apply properly to 1’s lockdown survival guide. These have to be the plates that we placed on the figurative weightlifting bar for the thoughts. This mission that we’re all collectively on, similar to an expedition, requires our cooperation and endurance with the intention to attain the objective.


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