What can the I’m A Celebrity campmates learn from a wilderness medicine specialist?Published: November 29, 2021
With the new series of I’m A Celebrity currently taking place in North Wales, campmates will be facing incredibly tough conditions in the grounds of Gwrych Castle for a second year, during the arduous wet and windy Welsh winter.
Circumstances will be very different from the hot and humid Australian jungle, which the long-running television series is well known for, and campmates will be tested to the outer limits of their endurance.
__So how should contestants prepare and what should they be aware of as they undertake this epic adventure of a lifetime? __
Dr. Meinir Jones is the Associate Medical Director of Transformation & VBHC & Clinical Lead MIU at Prince Philip Hospital Llanelli and Programme Leader for Learna’s online Expedition and Wilderness Medicine programmes.
Dr. Jones has acted as the medical lead on group expeditions all across the world, including a five-day training expedition in Northern Norway; a 30-day expedition across Greenland as team medic for a world record attempt by an amputee, and a 12-day crossing of the Pyrenees on bike as team medic for a group of injured ex-servicemen, including amputees and PTSD sufferers.
Below she gives her take on what’s needed to succeed in these tough conditions.
Physical strength and Mental strength
Physical fitness is a fundamental element of getting through any challenge of endurance, whether that be an Arctic expedition, trekking through the jungle, or spending several weeks in a damp and derelict Welsh castle. Most people focus all of their efforts on physical fitness when taking on any big adventure and often forget the importance of mental resilience. But mental strength is that ‘nth quality’ which is pivotal to success. Never underestimate the power of the mind. It will provide you with the coping strategies you need, and enhance life skills that can be translated and utilised during everyday challenges, or whatever curveballs life may throw at us.
Are you someone who needs regular alone time? Do you thrive on the energy of others? Are you a control freak? Do you shirk leadership roles? How are you going to tell people that? At moments like this, it’s not only about knowing yourself but also sharing this information with your team so you can understand each other better and work collectively more effectively. US author and podcaster Brene Brown speaks wonderfully on the power of vulnerability and how this can bridge ‘communication canyons’ to help others better understand each other.
Know your Triggers
Know what your triggers are. We all have them and if we know what they are then we are better placed to deal with them when triggering moments inevitably arise.
Before any big adventure, it’s important to work on your immune resilience. There are many aspects to this, and certainly, a regular and varied fitness regime and good diet are crucial. A particularly important element is gut health, which is so important for maintaining a healthy immune system. I would recommend taking probiotics every day for at least a month before any adventure.
Campmates may not be in the hot and humid Australian jungle this year, but it’s important that they remain hydrated all the same. Without sufficient hydration levels, no one can operate at their peak. Dehydration can also lead to a number of unpleasant side effects like headaches, UTIs, constipation, kidney stones, and more. None of which anyone wants to deal with, even at the best of times. One thing’s for sure – campmates will definitely have access to plenty of water! November in north Wales is not generally known to be dry…
Having cold (and damp) feet, apart from feeling pretty wretched, is directly linked to respiratory tract infections, so it’s important that campmates prioritise maintaining dry footwear as best they can.
In extreme cold I always recommend that people run around the bed or tent before you get into your sleeping bag. Movement and exercise result in heat so if you can channel some of this kinetic energy before settling down it will provide a final burst of much-needed warmth before lights out (or any time your core temperature is dropping for that matter).
Establish a routine
Campmates will have all of their usual daily routines thrown out of the window, so it’s important that they establish new routines very quickly to create some sense of order during this unusual and extraordinary time. Routines are vitally important for most people’s mental health and are not to be underestimated. Find a new routine, and stick to it. Take time doing tasks and do them mindfully. Break days down into manageable chunks based on routine. These things seem small but believe me, they are significant.
What are your own personal expectations about this experience? Decide beforehand what your measure of success is. Is it about competing? Is it about winning? Is it about facing your fears head-on? Is it about simply trying your best? Everyone has different measures of success and it’s important to understand what these are from the outset, even if they evolve (and they will!) over time.
Fear releases many of the same chemicals within the body as excitement does – but it is certainly harder to manage, so how do you approach this? What are your tactics to cope with fear? I always advise people to try and stand outside of the way that they are feeling and to really analyse their perception of the fear that they are feeling. Sit with it for a few minutes and consider it. Roll it around in your head. And if they are operating as part of a team, to also try and understand that your actions will impact the whole group. It’s vital to not let your fear overrule your rationale thought. It’s certainly not easy, but fear is an emotion that can be managed and controlled.
Challenges don’t have to be all about grim determination and a stiff upper lip! Fun and a positive attitude is vital component of success. My motto on previous expeditions has always been ‘Humour, Humility and Haribos’ – and while Haribos may be off the menu in north Wales, the other two will be an integral component of any successful campmates character.
If you’re seriously considering a career as an expedition medic, then gaining a qualification is the best place to start. Head over to our Expedition and Wilderness Medicine courses page for more information.