We have had a very bad summer around here — my dad is one week out from open heart surgery and a valve replacement. I am relieved that he’s made it this far because I don’t believe he had many days left otherwise. In the run-up to the surgery, I was keenly aware of the pit of depression trying to suck me in. In some of the posts I wrote here on my second pregnancy I talked about my strategy of “staying out of the pit.” I expect you know exactly what I mean if you have suffered from depression. Once you get sucked it, it is very difficult to get out. Staying out is far easier than getting out once you have been sucked in.
In the spirit of “staying out,” I have a new strategy to report that has been surprisingly effective: cold water soaking.
It all started when a friend gave me an open invitation to enjoy her private creek. Our stress was so bad I realized I needed to reteach myself how to take a deep breath and I remembered her creek. Sitting in such a beautiful spot would help me relax and breathe. I knew that the cold water itself helps reduce inflammation and so I dragged a chair into the middle of a sandy area and I sat for an hour in snow melt water up to my hips.
When I was finished I could breathe and my legs actually did feel better (though they were not a big issue). As the hours passed afterwards I just felt more of a sense of wellness than I had expected from my relaxation exercise and wondered if there was something more to it. I made the effort to soak as often as possible as a result.
The picture above shows my little spot in the creek.
Come to find out there is some evidence that cold therapy reduces symptoms of depression. A team of Polish researchers found cryotherapy to be an effective addition to pharmaceutical treatment. Patients were subjected to about two minutes in an extremely cold (-200 degrees F) cryogenic chamber fifteen times a day and their depressive symptoms decreased. Read the study here.
None of us have access to a cryogenic chamber and snow water run off in a creek is a far cry from 200 degrees below zero, but this study makes me wonder if there is something more to a cold water soak than reducing inflammation in our joints.
It is surely wort a try if you have the opportunity.
As an added benefit, cold water soaking may help us burn more calories as our body works to bring our temperature back up while we soak in the water. You can’t beat that.
How to Implement a Cold Water Soak?
I will admit that the strategy I am suggesting is far easier for me to implement here in the Sequoia National Forest than it is for most people reading this post and yet I have overlooked this opportunity for many years and I know I am not alone. If you have access to a cold creek, take your opportunity.
You can consider an actual cold water bath. Some people actually put ice cubes into their cold bath water and soak. If you do that, report back right here where you will be deemed officially a bad-ass. (It is just far easier mentally to descend into a beautiful creek than into an ice water bath tub.)
If you have heart problems, by all means, don’t try this strategy. You could shock your body and end up with a coronary event right their in your creek or your tub. In fact, you ought to ask your doctor to make sure you should try this at all if you have any sort of health condition.