By MH Staff - Posted on 20th June 2014
Eight steps to powering through life-threatening situations
After he fell overboard, Archibald checked his heart rate. “You’ve got to get it down,” he says. He began breathing deeply to avoid spiking on adrenalin. “If adrenalin runs out you’re just going to sink to the bottom.” You need to be able to relax on cue, he advises. “I’ve done a lot of meditation so I know how to get my heart rate down.”
While in the water, Archibald found himself involuntarily counting his strokes. Dr Helgo Schomer, a crisis and trauma specialist at Dr Schomer and Associates, says that invoking repetition enhances a minimum of calm – like a mantra does – to stem the panic in a racing mind.
Professor Tim Noakes explained to Archibald that one of the reasons that he is alive today is because he didn’t admit to being afraid. “I never felt fear in that entire time,” Archibald says. “That never entered my mind once.” Noakes says that Archibald’s pragmatic approach to an inevitable death removed the stress that would come with fear.
Pain is the mind’s rational messenger. Often when Archibald’s mind ebbed from reasonable thought, pain jolted him back to his senses. He decided to engrave a farewell note into his skin with his belt buckle. But the stinging of the blunt object stopped him. “The logical part of my brain said, ‘It’s gonna bleed and attract sharks.’”
Dr David Crombie – a sports scientist at the South Africa Sport Science Institute – says that although you may feel tired you’re often less fatigued than you think. “There’s some headroom that allows you to go beyond and to actually do more than that,” he says. “It’s like running out of petrol but there is actually reserve.”
Wise up on what’s around you. The Durban-born man’s knowledge of the sea kept him afloat. “I know that every current takes you back to land,” Archibald says. “Many people drown because they try to fight the current instead of keeping afloat. You’re never going to beat the current and you’ll get exhausted and drown.”
Archibald’s fitness is one of the reasons why he survived the 72km swim. He did a multi-stage 850km cycle challenge before leaving for Indonesia, and Noakes points out that his muscle configuration allows him to acclimatise to surroundings easily. “I’m no super fit guy but my muscles adapt very quickly to environments.”
Archibald returned to the ocean to get rid of his newfound negative associations with it. It’s the embodiment of the old adage of getting back on the horse after falling off it, says Schomer. When you’re making a comeback like this, he advises that it’s best to not overthink the situation and risk being frozen in fear.