Feeling stressed? Research suggests the key to managing stress is actually inducing more stress! Specifically, short periods of physical stress. One way to do this is by taking ice baths. Popularized by extreme athlete Wim Hof, a.k.a. The Dutchman, ice baths create a stress response in the body, shocking our systems at the cellular and molecular level. They challenge our bodies to adapt to tough conditions and restore equilibrium. Research suggests that with regular practice, people develop a physical resilience to the cold and an adaptive response to stress that may generalize to stressors other than the cold.
In addition to boosting your ability to handle stress, ice baths can boost your mood. They increase the production of endorphins, as well as noradrenaline and dopamine, which can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Other benefits include reduced inflammation and swelling of muscles, as well as faster metabolism. While generally safe, ice baths are contradicted for people with certain conditions such as heart problems or diabetes, and pregnant women. So, check with your doctor first.
So, if you’re feeling stressed, try taking the plunge. You just may find you feel a little more energized, happier and less anxious.
Dr. Lisa Napolitano is an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other mindfulness-based treatments. A licensed psychologist in New York and Florida, she is the Founder and Director of CBT/DBT Associates, a boutique psychology practice group. Dr. Napolitano is an expert in the treatment of stress, anxiety, worry, and emotion regulation problems. She has specifically designed her treatment approach for executives, attorneys, and other high-functioning individuals whom she believes shouldn’t have to sacrifice their careers to manage their stress and work on developing their potential.