To Be Cold, Or Not To Be Cold

By: Samantha Clement

My older sister and I recently decided to do something that terrified us both…submerge ourselves in ice cold water. Now, wintertime is already the coldest time of year and we were deliberately *choosing* to strip down to our skivvies and sit ourselves in about 36 degree water. Maybe you’re wondering why we would engage in such a tortuous pursuit. Kicks and giggles? 

The truth was, we both felt so sleepy and lackadaisical after the dinner rush of the year–AKA the holidays(or daze)–maybe even the dinner rush of the era–AKA 2020–that we agreed to join in on something that would jolt us back to life and right into 2021 on a high note. We had also done some research around other cultures who perform this kind of thing (“thing” being immersing themselves in freezing water) on a regular basis. The practice bragged of countless health benefits including, but not limited to: increasing blood flow and circulation, aiding in heart health, boosting brain function, creating positive stress responders, decreasing inflammation, and strengthening the immune system. That part was intriguing and sounded right up our separate, yet similar, self-care allies. So, we picked a date and planned it. 

We packed blankets, sheepskins, a coffee percolator, breakfast burritos, and a firepit to set the scene and ensure warmth and comfort post-plunge. I showed up layered in long johns, sweats, Uggs, a winter coat, and a beanie. Lauren looked about the same level of Michelin Man as I did. We had agreed to meet at the deepest creek we could think of (for reference, we had to sit all the way down to cover our chest, and eventually dunk our heads). The ceremony (it was actually not a ceremony, but in a way, felt ceremonious) was ready to commence. 

A candid moment pre-dunk as we mustered up our courage.

Walking in was the hardest part. My toes, then feet, then legs, ached so badly, I could have thrown up. I ran out twice as Lauren arduously continued the trek in. I eventually joined her in the deep part because she said she was going in with or without me, and had I come all this way just to chicken out?! Absolutely not. So, we held hands, and sank down into the cold together. It was dreadful.

A lot of life is surrendering to the situation. 

And in this case, I gave way to being colder than I ever have before, alongside another brave soul. We counted and breathed deeply together until we couldn’t take it anymore and ran out. It ended up being just a few minutes but it was enough to do the trick. I realized something after we made it back to our nesting spot: I wasn’t even cold anymore. My body had heated itself from the inside out (which is what bodies do in these situations to survive). What I felt was a burst of endorphins and life serge through my veins. I was awake! It was truly incredible. 

Having come to realize this seemingly terrifying and a bit excruciating venture was actually the best I had felt since giving birth (I am referring to the euphoric state after Little One came out, not the actual labor–just to be clear), I have continued taking ice cold showers throughout my week. It has not gotten any easier to get into cold water. But, I have come to see it as mind over matter; facing my fear; you can do anything for three short minutes.

There is a physical, emotional, and mental aspect to overcoming these three minutes, so I consider this my whole-body workout and genuinely feel stronger each time I step out from under the showerhead.

Which brings me to my final thought: Maybe all of life is the surrendering.

A couple hours post-plunge–dry, warm, and happy!
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