Amy Bushatz and I love to talk about cold weather! A couple of months ago, I joined Amy on her podcast, Humans Outside, to talk about cold weather layering. If you missed it, here’s what we talked about last time and where to listen.
We wanted to continue our conversation on cold weather with another episode! This time, we took a different angle, focusing specifically on the emotions of cold weather. Have you ever noticed how stressful outdoor adventures can feel in the winter? Amy and I sure have.
Learning to have fun outside in the cold weather is a practice, but there are a few tools and tricks we’ve found over the years. Through this conversation, we hope to spark some ideas for your own time in winter wonderland.
Like me, Amy also lives in Alaska. She started the Humans Outside Challenge, which creates structure to help folks spend at least 20 minutes outside for one full year. Amy herself has spent at least 20 minutes outside for more than 5 years, no matter the weather. She’s certainly learned a thing or two about cold weather.
Most of our conversation centered around stress responses in the outdoors. We talked about ways that stress can be triggered, how individuals vary with stress tolerance, and lots and lots of practical tips for having more fun and less stress, even in tough conditions. Below, you’ll find specific time points of each subject to help you navigate the episode and give you a flavor of our chat.
I loved this conversation and I hope you’ll give it a listen! If you have thoughts or any of these topics resonated, I'd love to hear from you!
You can also read the full transcript of the interview below.
Amy Bushatz: No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside even for a few minutes is always worth it. I’m your host, Amy Bushatz, and here at Humans Outside, we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life around spending time in nature while hearing from fascinating outdoor minded guests. As a journalist for 19 years, I’ve let curiosity be my guide. After my husband’s injuries from military service, we started looking for a better way to live. That’s why we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if an outdoor focused life was the answer. Since September, 2017, I’ve personally spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day no matter what to explore how nature can change my life.
Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.
Have you ever seen that meme that asks why you live somewhere where the air hurts your face? It’s easy to feel like the weather, wherever you are, is attacking you. And we laugh about it, which is great. But the truth is that it can actually feel like the weather is attacking you. And when that happens, your body and nervous system might go into a protective mode to help you survive either mentally or even physically.
That survival might be simply really wanting to not go do whatever it is you’re planning to do. It might feel like getting outside and hating it. It might feel like a combination of the two. But if you do really wanna be someone who doesn’t just spend time outside but likes it, you might be hunting for a way to get past that bad feeling.
Today, we are welcome back Sarah, Histand owner of Mind and Mountain, where she’s a mental health informed adventure fitness trainer and founder of the wildly popular training program, Ski Babes. She’s focused on women specifically, but through her work also focuses on this core value we all share: getting outside is for everyone.
Sarah is here in Alaska and she’s focused a lot of her work on helping beginners get outside. You might have caught her episode here on Humans Outside on what to wear when it’s cold outside. If you did, you heard us brush by this subject during that episode. As soon as we started talking about it, I knew I absolutely had to have her back to talk about it more in a later episode, and that is today.
Sarah, welcome back to Humans outside.
Sarah Histand: Oh, thanks for having me, Amy. I’m really excited to be back here with you.
Amy Bushatz: Because we are both outdoor people, I know you have more than one favorite outdoor space because I do, and so, again, I’m gonna ask you to give us a favorite outdoor space that we can imagine ourselves in with you having this conversation hanging out.
Sarah Histand: Okay, well because we are on this topic when it is single digits here in Anchorage and in the middle of winter, one of my favorite things to do this time of year is to walk from my house out into the neighborhood trails that are just a couple blocks away from here. And we get really quickly into some woods.
And if we go down the main trail and turn off of it onto a little footpath, there’s a little windy footpath that goes through a marsh. That’s of course, frozen and snow covered now. So it’s all with really magical snow and snow on the little bushes and also on the trees. And uh, we walk a little bit further through that marsh, and on the other side of that marsh, we’re back into the trees.
And I have a favorite tree that I love to go hang out with. And it’s, I just, it’s so amazing to me that I live in Anchorage, which is a, you know, a city of 300,000 people and I still am able to live at a place that’s close enough to some forest where I can have a little bit of woodsy experience just a few minutes from home.
Amy Bushatz: I gotta know why it’s your favorite tree? .
Sarah Histand: Good question. You know, when we were in the thick of the Covid pandemic and I had only, I had moved to Anchorage from Valdez, from small town Alaska. I lived in a small town in Alaska all of my life and kind of had this anti anchorage judgment about living in the urban area.
I moved here because my now husband has been here since high school and so I was like kind of angsty about being in town and trying to come up with ways to get over that angst and, and actually enjoy it. And we were pretty isolated also because of the Covid times and I at one point, went on this little walk and like quite close to home, had sat by this one tree and did a little meditation and had I, I felt like I bonded with it and it was one of the things that made me feel like I could, I could actually have a, make this place into something that feels like home And it, and it had a, a nature feel to it, even though it was so close to an urban, suburban home.
Amy Bushatz: I love it. I love having a tree friend. So I, I completely understand, I, there are some trees outside they, I can see them from my desk at my window. I can see them where I sit in my hot tub. I can see them. So, or if I’m just on my porch or hanging out and they are uh, They’re right there and they tell me when it’s going to be spring or not.
They tell me when it’s going to stop being summer. Uh, But they’re my tree friends. Yeah. And I do, I say hello to them. So I completely understand that. I love it. Um, so you talked to us last time about how you sort of became somebody who loves to spend time outside and it has a real intersection of this idea of mind and mountain, which is what, what the title of your business is now.
But can you remind us of that and maybe give us a little bit more on that combination since we are gonna be talking about the mind powers, if you will, today.
Sarah Histand: Totally. Yeah, I’d love to. Yeah, so I did grow up here in Alaska in Soldotna. So that's kind of a small town outside, a couple hours outside of Anchorage here and grew up. My parents are from the Midwest, so, they had moved up to Alaska as part of their honeymoon, kind of on an accident.
They were like on a road trip and ended up, up here and then kind of ran outta money and got some, got a job. And kind of ever since we, they’ve been here, so. Their, the version of outdoorsy stuff I grew up doing with them was pretty tame. It was like canoeing and some easy hikes and a little bit of fishing.
Pretty, like really nice ways to be outside. Um, But there was a change for me when I left the state for college and came back and got into working in the national parks and around some other people my age who were very outdoorsy and very like into more challenging sports, sporty type of outdoors.
And when I started contemplating learning the skillset to be able to be outside in that sort of, athletic way, some bigger, more challenging hiking trips. Learned a little bit about mountaineering. When I started to try some skiing and mountain biking, the gravity sports, all these things that required more challenges from my body and mind. I ran up against a lot of fear and a lot of intimidation, like kind of feeling like as an adult learner I was never gonna catch up to these people who had been doing it since they were little. But there was a phase then when I was living and working in Valdez, I was running a gym there and I was also working on a master’s degree in social work, mental health.
And it all kind of clicked because I was, Valdez is known for backcountry skiing, so I was really learning, trying to learn how to backcountry ski there. Realizing that the fitness training that I was doing in my day job was supporting that in huge ways, being able to both get up and down the mountain and enjoy it and not get hurt. And then the social work skills, the mental health component was really supporting the mental angst of being an adult learner and being slower than the people I was learning from and feeling like I, it was hard to measure up and kind of, the, that angsty process that , that adult learning can feel like.
So that is, that’s where this, like this new version of trying to be outside in a way that is also challenging but fun. And do it without too many, too many stressors both on my body and mind. Um, That's where it all comes from.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. So, I mentioned it in the introduction that we kind of brushed on this in our last episode and the moment we started talking about it in that episode about what to wear when you’re going outside, just sort of those nuts and bolts, the moment we started talking about it, I was like, oh man, this is so big and so deep.
And I think it’s that way for beginners especially, but I also think it’s that way for people who are used to doing this a lot because it’s so surprising. And we’ll get into that a little bit here and, but what I’m talking about is this feeling of not wanting to do something or hesitating to do something because it doesn’t feel good and it does, or it doesn’t feel safe, and this sort of moment where you maybe don’t understand that those feelings are legitimate or that they are more than I am lazy, quote unquote, or I just don’t want to right. That, there's something physiological going on there. And I love talking about things like this because it normalizes feelings of not wanting to go jump off cliffs and it , you know, like these things that we see people doing, they’re like, oh man, why can’t, why, why don’t I wanna do that? Why can’t I be somebody who does that?
So what we’re gonna talk about today is sort of normalizing those things, working through them. Maybe at the end of this, you’re somebody who, this feels scary and you just have gotten to a spot where you can acknowledge that or maybe you have come up with some tips during this episode to work through those things. Either way, I hope this really helps you.
So, Sarah, tell us why is it that heading outside, specifically in harsh weather, I’d like to focus on that today. Instead of harsh activities, uh, in harsh weather feels bad. What is going on there? .
Sarah Histand: Okay. Well I just love this topic so much, so I’m so glad we get to like circle around and spend a lot of time with it. I mean, the short answer to this question is that it is because it is actually unpleasant.
There is a real truth to the fact that being outside when the weather is crappy doesn’t feel very good on your body. . So there is a very normal natural first response of what the heck are we doing? Mm-hmm. Like, this is not fun. And some of what that’s coming from is the very real risk that is present when we’re in conditions that aren’t like the ones that are easily supportive of keeping us alive.
So there’s a very physical nervous system response that reads that unpleasantness, whether it’s cold or wind or cold rain or like any of the other gross stuff we can come across when we’re outside reads that as a perceived threat to the system, and I’m think I’m talking about like a difference here- it’s really helpful. I think when we have this conversation to separate the organism, like the animal body that we live in, the organism, think of that as separate from the, the personality, or like the thinking brain. Because it might be one thing to know that I’m just gonna walk around the block, like I’m gonna be okay. Your brain might know that, but the actual physical animal body, the organism doesn’t necessarily know that it has to actually live this. And, and so, so the sh Yes. Let's pause there, but the short answer is just that yes, because it’s real. There is a threat there.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So it's so funny that you say separate those things because while you’re talking, I’m thinking, man, Amy, like you do not like running in the rain. I mean, I do it. I will go for a run in the rain. Okay. I make myself do it. It is not the first thing I wanna do. And I cannot say that most of the time I’m doing it is something that I enjoy. Maybe after the fact when I think back on, I’m like, oh yeah, you did that. Good job. You know, very type two, fun situation.
But when I’m convincing myself to do that, the mind portion is taking over. Right? And it’s saying, Amy, you’re not the wicked witch of the west. You don’t melt. You’re gonna be fine. But then the animal body is saying not fine. Not fine. Drowning .
Sarah Histand: Yeah, not fine. I’m gonna have to actually work pretty hard to keep going during this situation. Even like just to stay warm, like we actually have to burn more calories in order to do that. Like you actually do put more stress on your system when we’re out there in those weird conditions. So it makes sense that, that like animal, the organism is like, Ugh. Do we have to ?
Amy Bushatz: Yes, exactly. Not fine. Chafing. Melting. Yeah. Um, Okay. One of the things that you brought up before we started talking that I think is really important to talk about is that this isn’t a consistent feeling. So sometimes I can feel like I my body can say, yeah, we’re running in the rain. Awesome. Or it’s, you know, negative five, here we go. And other times my body can say, No , basically. So sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s not. Okay. So why is it that doing literally the same thing on one day can feel fun and on another day can feel super scary and overwhelming. What’s going on there?
Sarah Histand: Mm-hmm. Yeah. This, I mean, this is so normal and also so frustrating. At least in my own experience and with the people I work with, it can be kind of like, almost crazy making to be like, wait a second, I just did this thing the other day and it was fun and silly. And today I like freaking out and what is going on with me that I can’t like, have fun again?
Um, I’m thinking about a couple examples of this in my own personal life, like this fall, we were, my my husband and I both really liked to ice skate outside. And there was a time this fall when it was early season and the ice was just coming in and we were out on some ice that was pretty borderline, like quite thin. And there are times when I have been in that situation where we’ve had all the safety nets in place and it’s like actually really shallow water. So not a big deal if it were a crack and all the things, and it’s been kind of just like a fun adventure. Can you believe we’re doing this? This is crazy. Like in a fun, silly way.
But that day it was like those cracks freaked my body out. And there was like no coming back from that. I was like, I want nothing to do with this today, I have to get outta here. And then there was of course that at least for me, there’s often a, like a shame cycle that comes along with that. That’s like, why am I freaking. There was actually not a big risk here. All the things. So to speak about like why some of the reasons why that might be happening, the, you know, so if you think about the, this organism we’re talking about, the animal body or the nervous system is one of the other ways to think about it.
The nervous system has it’s, I mean it’s, it’s kind of like a rubber band, honestly. It’s it has a certain amount of stretch to it, and when it reaches its stretch point, It’s not gonna stretch very much further or else it’s gonna snap. So, when your nervous, when your rubber band has a lot of slack in it, there is a lot of ability to add more challenge, add more things that stretch it.
But when you’re stretched all the way and you’re very taught. And your system is at capacity, it’s not gonna take very much at all to feel like you’re, you’re like at, at a tipping point. So it has a lot to do with this, like overall stress. And it, this is stuff that I think it’s easy for us not to measure, to think that oh, my work stress is different. I’m like, go outside to get away from my work stress.
But like actually the nervous system responds to all stresses the same. And so all. , all the things that are stretching your rubber band are, you know, how well did you sleep? How how much work stress are you under? I definitely talked to a lot of people during the heart of the pandemic times that were realizing that all of a sudden they didn’t feel like they had as much risk tolerance in their outdoor activities.
Like for some reason they were getting scared a lot easier and feeling like they weren’t up for doing as challenging of things. And they were like, why? Why? What’s going on? If you think about this rubber band concept, it really does make sense that like the, there were also a lot of stressors going on during that time and we were all maxed out in ways that were kind of hard to measure, but it also makes sense that that would show up in yeah, in our risk tolerance.
Amy Bushatz: Do you think that some people. I, I don’t wanna say capacity because that makes it sound like some sort of moral imperative, right? You’re good, you are bad, but that some people maybe have a preference to go stretched all the way immediately while other people maybe slow stretch.
I’m thinking specifically about a comparison between myself and my, my husband who seems to be the kind of fella who meets a snowboard for the first time, and it immediately takes it up to the top of the mountain and figures it out on the way down, which to me is a max stretch situation, right? We are, no, this rubber band is about to break, guys. Okay. For me, that sounds crazy, and I would prefer to meet the snowboard and then spend some time talking to it below the lift for a couple of days, , and then, yeah, and then take it out.
Sarah Histand: Totally.
Amy Bushatz: Maybe. Maybe to the first lift, stop, possibly, and then consider not doing that again. Right. So and then come back next year. That’s how I, I prefer to do things.
Sarah Histand: That’s awesome.
Amy Bushatz: Very, like I take risks extremely slowly, is what I’m trying to say. Whereas compared to my husband where he’s just let’s just jump off, let’s go. Um, Is this something you hear or see in your clients? Is this an anomaly? Maybe a personality thing? What’s going on?
Sarah Histand: Yeah. It, I see this a lot in my clients and between the dynamic between my husband and I has some of those dyna similarities too. This is a really common thing. It can be a tricky thing between couples too and there isn’t always this gender difference, but there often is too.
So, yeah. It’s just, it’s really fascinating stuff. I think you’re exactly right that everybody has a different rubber band, so that’s just some. Like how we are built and a lot, there’s a lot of identity, privilege that plays into that too, because of, if you have, if you have a marginalized identity of any sort, that’s gonna that’s gonna contribute to the stretch in your rubber band that’s been there forever. So, it’s a little bit different for men in an outdoor space. There’s a little bit more sense of belonging and like innate. , there’s lots of people like me here. And there’s, who knows about really young conditioning too, you know, about like little boys being told you got this, like, that’s so awesome. And little girls being told like watch out. Like, there’s a lot of subtle ways that misogyny and all of the other oppressions get woven in. So it’s like pretty hard to tease those apart from also the way the nervous system shows up, but for certainly a factor. And then, yeah, there are people whose nervous systems do a lot better in a sympathetic arousal state with a lot of adrenaline or a lot of charge in the sys, in the like nervous system.
Some systems love that. And then those systems, like some of, I mean like a super healthy ideally , like mobile nervous system has the capacity to stretch and then also to come down after the stretch and chill out. I see a lot of nervous systems who love that stress. Also, can get stuck in that stress. And maybe have a hard time actually chilling out. So there might be some downsides to that, like adrenaline seeking place where it’s I’m either on or I’m asleep. Yeah, maybe there’s there’s some challenges there. Yeah.
Amy Bushatz: I feel like this changes as you age too.
Sarah Histand: I think it does too.
Amy Bushatz: Maybe that’s a sign of being old now I say things like that.
Sarah Histand: I feel that too.
Amy Bushatz: That’s not something you say when you’re 22. Well, as you age, no,
Sarah Histand: it’s totally not. I know. Yeah. Yeah.
Amy Bushatz: It’s definitely something you say when you’re 38 though, so as you age . Yeah. I wonder if this doesn’t happen. I feel like I used to be more of somebody who had those sort of stretch, go back, stretch, go back, stretch, go back in a lot of different ways though, not necessarily in outdoor ways.
And now I’m more like stretch, go back, adjust my thyroid medication .
Sarah Histand: Yeah. Well, and there’s re like interesting things about that too. Like the stress does also accumulate in the body if we’re not able to fully complete our stress cycles. And if we have any stuck survival responses. Those will store up and get harder and harder to navigate over time.
So if we’re, if we’re coping with emotional or nervous system overwhelm by overriding it by like pushing it aside and being like, you’re good. Let’s do this. Then that stress response is going, get suppressed and held in the body, and then eventually the body’s gonna get pretty full of all that stored up stress and the override, the ability to override and just do it anyways is going to get harder and harder to access. So, I certainly feel that I’m 40 now and I feel like I, like I was dealing with, I was like overriding a lot, a lot, a lot in my twenties as I was getting into these more adventury sports and now I’m trying instead to learn how to let those stress responses move through the body all the way, feel it all the way through and let my body know it’s safe to feel all of that.
And then, make the decision about whether we wanna do this from a centered place where I’m actually present in my body instead of like smushing down that fear response and pretending like it’s not there.
Amy Bushatz: Hey humans, just a quick break to remind you that if you wanna build your own outdoor habit, the Humans Outside 365 Challenge is a great way to get started. Cool and exclusive Challenge swag, including a finisher, metal, and decal is waiting for you. All you need to do is visit humansoutside.com/challenge. Don’t get left out. Go to humansoutside.com/challenge to learn more now. Okay, back to the show.
One of the really interesting things about this discussion in the context of doing stressful or scary feeling things outside is that isn’t the point of going outside to make us feel lower stress. So here we are talking about. Chasing something that we often look to to reduce that feeling, but then having that feeling in response to doing the thing that we’re try, do you see where I’m going with this? It gets complicated.
Sarah Histand: Yes, it is very complicated and frustrating when you’re like, I’m out here trying to have fun
Amy Bushatz: right? So, what are some tips, what are some steps for overcoming this? So like I sense that maybe one of the first ones is acknowledging it. That’s often the first step in any problem. Yeah. Is admitting you have a problem.
Sarah Histand: Right.
Amy Bushatz: So what are some, what are some other steps?
Sarah Histand: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. I think that acknowledgement part, and especially the normalizing of it and the recognizing it is a physiological response, and nothing that you need to judge or feel is wrong. There’s nothing, there’s really not a way to mentally control that physiological survival response.
So I think the, the more we can talk about this being just an, the way the organism is showing up and, and trust that it’s doing it for a reason there is so much wisdom in the way that the nervous system developed its survival responses. Sometimes if we’re like looking at them from the outside and being like, you are very overreactive right now. What’s going on? I don’t need you to be on like full flight or flight mode right now. I like, all we’re doing is going like out for a stroll, .
Amy Bushatz: I always ask myself, Amy, do you need a snack right now? Little snack?
Sarah Histand: Yeah. I love that. A food like any soothing, anything that’s soothing to the organism is going to be helpful. So, uh, we talked in the last episode about dressing, but really the, the actual dressing for the weather is one of the ways to do that. And if your animal body is supported and has warm clothes enough to keep comfortable, then that’s gonna be helpful. And then another interesting thing I notice with even just with dressing is that there’s an aspect even when you, especially I’m thinking about cold specifically, but if you’re, if you’re dressed but the, but you’re still feeling the cold, there’s often a tension like a, a body like grip that happens in cold weather. Where, there like I think it’s the body’s reaction to feeling like the air is hurting you. So it’s gonna like grip, grip up and be like, ah, this sucks. But if you can feel that tension, I think this is some of the re reasons why embodiment work is so helpful. If you feel your body do that grip and then recognize, okay, I don’t actually need this grip right now cuz I have a puffy jacket on and have like winter boots, like I’m actually okay right now. That might allow some of the grip to release, can like kind of intentionally help your body know that it doesn’t, that it’s got the warmth and get it to soften. I even like to do like a shakeout kind of just anything that I actually feel like for me, the practice is a practice of letting the cold in a little bit like taking some breaths, letting your body soften, let the cold come in, and then realize that you, you’re okay with, you can be okay with a little bit less grip, a little bit less resistance to the temperature seems to really help some of that softening happen. Yeah. Yeah, and that’s a practice in general of attuning your focus to the safety that’s around.
And that’s a, that’s one of these nervous system techniques for when the body is perceiving threat. It’s gonna focuson that. Unless we shift its attention to the other thing that’s present, which is actually there’s actually a lot of protection around as well, including these lovely layers including, you know, my person, my friend, who I’m out with, including the beautiful nature.
Like all the things that help you reorient away from the discomfort and do it intentionally cuz we wanna orient away, like to the safety and then let your body respond to that.
Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I a, as you’re talking about this, I, you, you and I can see each other and unlike the people who are listening to this, and I noticed that you have a very cozy looking sweatshirt on right now, as I have my, one of my favorite cozy sweatshirts on right now.
And it occurred to me that the, the things that I like to wear outside are things that I love. Like the things I love are things I love because they feel safe. And one of the reasons they feel safe is because they warm me and they’re very cozy and you know, cuddly and almost give you a warm hug on your body in, in that you’re wearing them. And they’re on. Okay. So it makes me think that maybe one idea could be to have to follow your gut on what do you, what clothing layers do you simply like what do you like? Because when you really like something, there’s probably a reason other than it’s cute or whatever, right? Like other than aesthetics maybe it makes you happy because it’s cuddly and warm. And just to sort of lean into that emotional response to something. I find for me the things that I like the most are, fit that description. I also I also really like the color pink because it makes me happy. So, but Okay. My favorite items of like winter clothing are both very bright pink and warm. So like they’re
Sarah Histand: Well, yeah. Yeah. I love that. It’s, it’s totally true that the emotional connection that you, that like really we’re looking to facilitate some sort of warm fuzzy feeling on the inside of safety. And if you have a comfort with what, whatever you’re putting on that’s gonna help do it.
And we were talking before we hit record too, about costumes and like whether or not your costumes are actually, or your fun little extras are going to actually heat to your body. If they help your mind stay in a playful place, that’s going to help your nervous system stay out of a stress response and that’s gonna help the whole experience.
So there is this real potential kind of wild, for like a tutu to actually help shift the intensity of an experience on the inside for you.
Amy Bushatz: Yep, a hundred percent. I will be wearing a tutu to ski on this very.
Sarah Histand: Yes,
Amy Bushatz: that is gonna happen.
Sarah Histand: I love tutu skiing. It’s the best.
Amy Bushatz: I I uh, listeners may not know this, but I sort of collect costumes that I can wear over layers to have fun and be whimsical. I don’t know. It makes a good picture. It, I just think it’s really silly and fun. I’m sure my children are endlessly embarrassed by this, but I don’t even care because, because I’m having a great time in my really ridiculous hat at whatever community thing. You see me at and it’s fine. And then I maybe I’ll, when I’m old, I’ll be the quirky hat lady. That’s okay. I’m good with that.
Sarah Histand: It’s so good. It’s, I feel like that’s, whether you knew it or not, you, your nervous system was finding a way to find a playful and a safe like way to do these things. That’s so brilliant.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. That’s so well. There you go. Good job body. You knew what you were doing.
Sarah Histand: Yes, it’s true. Our bodies are amazing. All these things, like they’re coming up with these strategies always to mitigate stress and that’s why I like love coming back to the point of whatever your body’s doing, we have to trust that it’s doing it for a reason and then look to what it needs to, maybe if it is hypersensitive and overreacting a lot, then there’s maybe some work to do on being able to actually find a safe feeling in your body.
And then these other two skills that I love mentioning and work with these a lot, both in fitness and with direct, are titration and pendulation, which means, like you were saying about you, the way you love to learn. Baby steps taking, just, especially if you have a rubber band that’s got a lot of stretch in it. We just want to take the smallest little step into challenge. That’s a titrated step. And then we wanna pendulate back into like, back go back inside, drink your tea. You’re like actually come back to safety and feel good and give your system a chance to assess was that a good amount of stress? Did I survive? I Okay, if I did, then it’s gonna allow a little bit more stretch in your rubber band, so you can go do that and maybe a little bit more next time. Yeah. So that’s a nice, like growth pattern.
Amy Bushatz: Is this something you, you mentioned that you deal with this off and on. Do you find this is something that is most usually dealt with by beginners to, to spending a lot of time outside, or is this like a universal thing that you’re gonna just sort of maybe learn how to deal with over time better, but still find yourself addressing?
Sarah Histand: Yeah, good question. I think it does fall harder on beginners and my, the way that makes sense to me on that is that when you’re new to a thing, your body is gonna be like on high alert and trying to figure out if this thing really is safe on all the different levels, whether you’ve got the skills for it, whether you can handle the weather, whether whether the gear you’re wearing is actually gonna keep you warm enough.
It’s like it’s gotta safety check, all those little aspects. And it’s doing all that mostly below the level, level of consciousness. But all of that stuff is adding stretch to the rubber band. So especially when you’re, when you’re new to something, there’s a lot of Is the safe going on all the time. And then the more experiences you get of that titration pendulationarc of we did a thing and then we survived it.
Okay, next time we can go do that same thing. I don’t have to stress quite as much about it. It’s gonna stretch my rubberband a little bit less cuz I know that we’ve done this before and we have the capacity for it. So, as you accumulate those reps, it gets easier on the, on the nervous system for sure.
But it does, you know, the stuff is also super influenced by bandwidth, like we were talking about. If you have a season of life where you’re under like a ton of other stressors, it like, it’s potentially gonna get hard again. And your, and your ability to tolerate it might, might change, go, might go down and might have to be built up again.
And then of course if you have something intense happen, like we call it a stress injury or a trauma, if something goes wrong if you take on a challenge that’s too big or if there’s some kind of accident, then that also is gonna change. systems, your organisms like ability to, it’s just gonna be extra protective for a, for a time until it learns again slowly over time that it’s actually okay to engage with this, these challenges again.
Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . It feels like this may be an a special cha special challenge in harsh cold weather because you’re probably, if you’re new to this, you’re probably dealing with a lot of new stuff all at the same time. So I’m thinking about maybe when I was trying to learn to ski or I thought I wanted to learn to ski, which at the time, as it turns out, I did, but then changed my mind.
So because I had a bad experience. Right. Exactly what you’re talking about. So I’m new to Alaska, so one I’m cold and I don’t know what to do about it. Two, I’m new to skiing, so I’m wearing new, new to me equipment that I’ve never seen before and I dunno anything about, and I dunno how it’s supposed to work and it’s scary.
So that’s already two stresses. Three, I am in what already feels to any sane person, like a scary environment, which is on top of a ski lift and like like, and I’ve never done that before. So that’s three independent, but connected in ways, new things that are stressing me out. So it should shock absolutely no one, but except for my husband, I’m sorry to report that that I kind of had a meltdown on the way down the mountain and then didn’t wanna ever do it again, and then it took me years to hedge back into that because I had this collision of bad experiences and now, now that I have learned to ski over time and, and it is something that I do actually enjoy, I know that I need to be nicer to myself. That’s what that taught me, that I should not do all those new things at the same time. I should do exactly what you’re saying, which is take a baby step and then go back in the lodge and drink some coffee and then take another baby step and drink a little bit more coffee and, and so on and so forth. But not even not necessarily on the same day.
And to do this without self-judgment, because that’s the other thing. It is so easy to say to yourself, wow, you’re a failure. Look at all these people skiing. Why can’t you just go skiing? Look at all these people going outside for hours on end and sub-zero temperatures.
Or look at these people in Alaska. They go outside in sub-zero temperatures. I’m here in 45 degrees. Why can’t I handle this? Why don’t I want to? It’s so easy to look at those things, but I always tell people that outdoor experiences are highly subjective, subjective to your past experience. So if you don’t live somewhere where it’s subzero, why in the world would you be used to that? If you live somewhere where 45 is a shocking temperature, of course it feels shocking. There’s no, like the comparison is the great evil here because there’s just you and your experiences and how you are receiving what it is that you want to pursue.
Sarah Histand: Yep. Oh my gosh, this your example is so spot on and I can absolutely relate and I’m sure a bunch of people, other people can too. It’s so easy to get caught up in that idea of what it took other people to learn or try to match other people’s learning curves. And our bodies are very different and need different things. And the fast learning curve and the extreme choices is kind of validated in our culture. So there’s a some extra social pressure to de detangle from some of that and choose the more slower mindful route. But there’s so many benefits from it and I absolutely know the mental angst about all that comparison is is really intense. It’s, I think for me, the anchor that I keep working with on that is to really feel what the, what the nervous system is doing, and then trust it.
There must be a reason it’s acting like this. What does it need to feel like it’s gonna be okay right now?
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. It goes back to this idea of trusting our intuition. I think about former guests I had in season six, Nicole Snell and something she told me a lot, which is that humans are pretty much the only quote unquote animal that he has intuition say something and then disregard. Oh, this doesn’t feel safe.
Sarah Histand: Oh my gosh.
Amy Bushatz: I’m gonna go ahead and ignore that uh, when something doesn’t feel safe. Safe, yeah. When something doesn’t feel safe to your dog, they’re like, we’re out. I’m going home now. Yeah. I’m like, I’m done. I mean, my, my old dog at this point is just like, she like literally will sit down. She’s like, I’m not going anymore, that’s it. Like you’re a fool. Or we go on a walk and she’s cold and then we can’t find her. And it turns out she went home. She just left I’m leaving. My feet are cold. Goodbye. You know, like, and I’m like, oh, we’re out here. We’re doing 20 minutes. Gosh darn it. Okay, so what is going on there?
And how can we teach ourselves to not be dumb animal and say, oh, intuition, I see you goodbye. And instead, honor that. What, what are the steps to learning how to, how to be smarter?
Sarah Histand: Oh gosh. I mean, this is such big stuff. I think the thing that makes us like it really tricky to be a human animal is that we have all of the nervous system responses going on like the fight, flight and freeze. But then we also have a social nervous system that is reading other humans, and we evolved in tribes with other humans as a way of survival. We depended on the group to help us in the world that we are in. So evolutionarily, our nervous system again knows that we need to have some human connection in order to be safe. So there is a factor to all the comparison that happens mentally that is another nervous system thing in the social side of the side of it. And so it’s pretty, it’s like. makes it very hard to be human, honestly. Because we can’t just, we don’t just have the like, am I physically safe thing?
We also have the, like, am I interpersonally safe? And then those two things often end up kind of at war against each other because the, like you said, the body wants to be like, I wanna go inside. And the the social is I gotta stay here with these people cuz these are my people and I need to keep up.
So I, again, like we talked about earlier, the acknowledging that and just naming it feels like a really helpful part of the dilemma because it can be really easy just to get really frustrated at even your, the part of you that is trying to keep up and you’re like, why, why don’t I just go be the old dog?
But if we can see that there’s like, there’s subconscious, like interpersonal dynamic there at play, that might help take a little bit of the pressure off. And then I love even I call it weakest link syndrome, which is the name for the experience of feeling like you are the weakest person in your group and how uncomfortable that position can be.
So even just using that name and being like, I’m experiencing weakest link syndrome here often when you’re in that role, you end up feeling like you’re having to work extra hard to keep up. And so I actually tell people that if you can recognize that it’s happening to actually slow yourself down and get yourself back to a position, a pace that is actually working for you, instead of trying to match the groups they end of up like actually just being like usually a couple minutes apart, if anything, you know? But the extra frantic pressure can feel like a big stressor for the body. And then it’s, it’s slow and steady, you know, that, I guess my other technique that I lean on a lot in those situations is remembering what it feels like when you are with somebody who’s a little bit slower than you. And of course I’m like, oh my gosh, I want them to have a great time. I really hope they’re having a good time, like not feeling. impatient or annoyed by them instead of we’re feeling like loving and we want to take care of them. So if you can imagine how that feels and then help, that might help you actually feel a bit more of that toward yourself.
Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm. And then going back to what we said before, you know, kind of just looping in those understanding things that help you feel safer, whether that’s layers or, you know, I, you could even have a a comfort snack in your pocket. You know, just like anything you’d have that makes you feel secure and safe and as you acknowledge that nervous system response and that intuition to say, then ask, okay, well what are my tools? What is, what does that animal body need to feel better in this moment. And maybe that is stepping at taking that step back and going back inside or whatever and trying again later. Or maybe it is pausing in that moment like what you’re saying to, you know, think through your responses and then give yourself those physical tools to, to feel better. I mean, hand warmers go a long way. I’m not even at this point I think that I’m probably just wasting hand warmers to be honest if, because I take them out of my gloves after about, I don’t know, 10 minutes, I’ve, I’ve started, I realized finally that I could reuse them if I put them in an airtight container. But I start all of my adventures now with hand warmers because I’m so afraid of having cold hands and almost every time I don’t need them, um. But I, it’s, it’s really, it’s a band. It’s a band-Aid safety fall for me to say, I’ve got my, you know, it’s like a comfort blanket, comfort hand warmers in my mittens. We’re good.
Sarah Histand: So good. Yeah, and I love that you keep, you mentioned snacks too, cuz that’s another thing. It’s it’s actually soothing to the body to know that it has a little safety net of some extra food coming in. And all of those things really matter to that animal that’s scanning for, are we safe right now or not?
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Glove box snacks, guys. , don’t leave home without them. . Just little. Just put an RX bar or something in your glove box. Just a little, you know, the other day I was like, gosh, I’m hungry. Am I smart enough to have a glove box snacks? And I’ll tell you what, I found an entire Theo Chocolate bar in there.
Sarah Histand: Score!
Amy Bushatz: Yes. Big score. All right, Sarah, tell us how can people find more about your program? I know you do Ski Babes. Is that only for people in Alaska? What, what else do people know? Tell us?
Sarah Histand: Okay, so Ski Babes is online training for outdoor, just outdoor sports, and it’s the winter focused version. We have a summer focused version that’s called Summer Strong, and that’ll be starting up in April. It is a women-centered environment, but people of all genders are welcome and, and it’s virtual, so yeah, you can for sure join from wherever the workouts are pre-recorded, so they fit your schedule and we weave in these nervous system components to the fitness training so that you. You’re like building up your awareness of all of these concepts while you’re also getting stronger so it can be really supportive. This is all at mindandmountain.co and the other place I hang out online is at on Instagram and my handle there is @sarahmhistand, and I would love to connect there.
Amy Bushatz: Awesome. And everyone can find all those links in the show notes. Of course. If you just wanna tap through, that’s the place to do it.
Sarah, thank you so much for joining us once again on Humans Outside. My Spidey Senses says this will not be the last time, so, I’m sure we’ll we’ll connect again and hopefully you and I run into each other in the actual wild. That would be so fun. Thank you so much for joining us.
Sarah Histand: Thank you so much, Amy.
Amy Bushatz: Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. Help me out by leaving a five star rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. It really does help other listeners find the podcast too. Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.
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