Stepping out of my comfort zone into a cold shower..

Cold Shower

Cold showers 🥶…

I have been reading about the benefits of cold water swimming and showers, and there are many it seems.

So, yesterday I tried a one minute cold shower. It was hard to breathe but the idea is to overcome the initial ‘panic’ and calm yourself down as you keep moving. I felt light headed for a moment as my breath was short. I told myself it will pass, which it did. The timer soon went off and then I switched to comforting warm water. After I felt refreshed and ready to go, as if I had had a strong shot of caffeine….Later I realized this was not such a good idea to do in the evening as it took me a long, long time to calm my body down and get to sleep.

This morning I tried again for longer. I set the stopwatch on my phone so I could see it rather than setting a time limit. Deep breaths in and out. Cold water on my limbs, face, head and back. Keep breathing and moving. This time I was even able to wash and amazingly my body calmed down and adapted to the blasts of cold water. It was a bit painful on my head but great to put my face into the jets of water.

I stayed in there for just over 5 minutes and didn’t switch to warm after. My body had warmed itself up from the inside.

I am feeling invigorated, empowered and my skin feels like it has had a spa treatment 🥰

Stepping out of our comfort zones can help reduce stress and reduce anxiety.

Regular cold water ‘shock’ experiences re-educate our threat response and can break the circle of anxiety and fear, helping us cope better with everyday stress.

Challenging ourselves in different situations can help us to gain a sense of achievement, feel empowered, stronger and trust ourselves again.  As humans we have evolved mental and physical responses to potentially life threatening situations – the well known fight or flight response. However, our primitive system can over react to the daily stresses such as work, social and time pressure which our modern lives bring. Moreover, our brains struggle to make sense and ‘solve’ these problems and can become on guard all the time. You may be familiar with the brief moment of satisfaction after deadline is met, only to be greeted in next breath with the question, ‘Right what’s next?’

Interestingly, giving our body a physical shock with cold water for a moment  induces the ‘panic’ response – we can’t breathe, it hurts and our heart races – but at the same time, blood flow is increased and hormones are released ready to deal with the perceived ‘danger’. Taking a moment to stay with the sensations, resist getting out of the situation and breathing through it provides an incredibly useful opportunity to retrain our minds, take control and allow ourselves to be reassured  we are not dying, we are resilient and this will pass.

The release of endorphins that accompanies the adrenaline response leaves us with a satisfying glow, a sense of well-being and even optimism. Definitely worth a try.

Cold shower challenge.

  1. Set a timer. For just over a minute, so that you will get a full 60 secs in the cold water.
  2. Accept it will be uncomfortable, but you are open to the challenge.
  3. Enter the cold shower knowing it’s only for a short while.
  4. At first your breath will be short and quick.
  5. Allow your body to adapt and breathe deliberately slower
  6. Try to move about and focus on the sensations
  7. Put different parts of your body under the water including your face.
  8. When the timer goes off you can continue or switch to warmer water.
  9. Celebrate your achievement – you just faced a fear and survived.
  10. Next time experiment with longer up to 5 minutes.

The benefits of cold showers and swimming

Regular cold water dips in open water or in the shower can give your system a sufficient shock to induce an adaptive response which increases resilience to stress and illness.

The shock experienced, triggers the release of norepinephrine, a hormone produced in the adrenal gland and a neurotransmitter. The effect of this is to improve mood, focus and attention. It lowers inflammation and pain. It enables proteins in the brain which repair damaged synapses and in the muscles prevents atrophy. It increases metabolic rate and the activity of mitochondria which release energy and heat. Together with adrenaline increase heart rate and blood pressure.

When the water hits,  your body is suddenly cooled and on the surface blood circulation is constricted. In order to maintain your normal body temperature blood circulation is increased in your deeper tissues. This increases your metabolic rate and production of white blood cells. Thus boosting your immune system.

We can all experience the benefits of cold water immersion at home in the shower, or outside by joining an outdoor swimming group. However, start gradually and don’t try it if you are feeling unwell or recovering from an illness. If you are receiving treatment for depression or a personality disorder please consult  your medical professional first.

Additional articles for reference

Dr Mark Harper (Cold Water Swimmer)

‘When his local pool was closed, a friend suggested to Dr Mark Harper that he try swimming in the chilly sea off Brighton (UK). 13 years on, and Harper dives in year round, even on Christmas Day (without a wetsuit!). His pioneering research suggests ‘cold water adaption’ helps you stay healthy and happy. Incredibly, a regular dip could help fight conditions like common colds, diabetes, chronic stress and even depression.’  Headtalks.com and You tube

https://youtu.be/0pXLF0sucDU The healing madness of sea swimming Dr Mark Harper

https://vimeo.com/292071219  Chasing the Sublime

Beautifully produced short film on open swimming I found on YouTube

https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/embracing-cold-tips-immersion/

Tips from the Outdoor Swimming Society on safety with great picture

Wim Hof, The Iceman, “The cold makes you go within.”

You don’t need to be The Iceman to feel the benefits of cold water immersion.