We encounter different scenarios every single day, and each change can cause emotional stress. As many of you know, stress is an all too familiar feeling that most people file under the “I’ll deal with it later” section in their brain. When too much stress builds up in the body, however, it can take an extreme toll on your mental and physical health. This can lead to increased anxiety, feelings of depression, weight gain, or other chronic illnesses.
What Is Stress?
Stress is the body’s response to some sort of change that demands a reaction. This can be a fight or flight response, which can help you tackle challenges appropriately. Once the change is dealt with, however, stress should fade away so that the body can return to a normal state. Constant stress occurs when the body cannot distinguish between serious threats and everyday challenges. For example, a traffic jam or waiting in line should not spin you out of control. This can cause unnecessary stress signals throughout the body, leading to potential hormonal imbalance, impaired immune function, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, and an unhealthy diet. Other common symptoms that stem from constant stress can include:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Arthritic symptoms
- High blood pressure
- Chronic fatigue
- Skin conditions (like psoriasis)
How Do You Manage Stress?
Sometimes, therapy doesn’t cut it and other measures need to be taken to reduce anxiety and stress. In order to reduce stress, though, you must first identify the stressors in your life. Once you identify these stressors, you can use different strategies to return your body to a relaxed state. One effective way to manage stress is through a combination of breathing techniques and immersion into cold water.
Introducing The Body To Cold Water
According to many scientific studies and anecdotal research, cold water therapy can help the body become more resistant to stress. In fact, exposing the body to cold water that is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit can help the body adapt to harsher conditions. Dr. Rhonda Patrick, founder of Found My Fitness, wrote a report on the how shocking the body in cold water immersion (an ice bath) can positively affect the brain. The cold water helps to increase the release of norepinephrine, a hormone that calms you down, into the bloodstream. Increasing the amount of this hormone in the blood has been associated with improved focus, mood, immunity, and reduced inflammation, anxiety, and stress.
Cold Showers For Depression
It is very common for people with chronic stress to experience depression. In fact, 10% of American adults have depression and many use medications to treat symptoms. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), exposure to cold helps to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of noradrenaline and beta-endorphin, in addition to increasing the synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain. The skin contains a high concentration of cold receptors, so immersing the body in cold water sends mild electrical impulses to the brain, which can induce anti-depressive effects.
In the ever-expanding world of alternative wellness and prevention methods, one of the most popular techniques for getting rid of anxiety or stress is the Wim Hof Method. Known as The Iceman, Hof has exposed his body to extreme cold in just shorts. He has jogged a half marathon above the Arctic Circle, barefoot and in shorts. He hiked Mt. Everest in shorts, swam 66 meters beneath the ice, and experienced no symptoms after being injected with E. coli bacterium. All this was made possible because of he trained his mind to overcome physical responses.
The Wim Hof method comprises three basic principles: exposure to cold, breathing technique, and commitment. Cold showers are considered physical stressors, and routinely exposing the body to them helps to reset the stress response. This can help you feel less overwhelmed and create awareness that allows you to switch off your stress response to prevent chronic stress. Finally, these cold showers, work to exercise the nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system, benefitting the entire body.
There’s no denying that you will feel cold when you get in the cold shower. The idea is to start in warm water and finish the last 30 seconds in cold. You can extend the amount of time that you are in the cold water as you practice more. You should breathe deeply the entire time to help yourself remain in control. You are in control of your mind, body, and your stress! You can do this!