Getting rid of stress in the cold
Sep 12, 2022
You really need to get out of your mindset. Reduce your stress level to 0. Ctrl-alt-delete in your brain. We all know that this is easier said than done. Our head is always turned on and our thoughts keep on going. In some people, this is a manageable extent, with occasional (healthy) moments of stress. But for others, it is a constant stress response for far too long a period. We are talking with Koen de Jong about this, expert and author on breathing techniques, the cold, running, getting up early and adventure. He tells us more about the stress response and how you can really get rid of stress thanks to the cold.
What is a stress response and how exactly does it work?
The stress response is also known as the "fight or flight response", it helps us in emergency situations. As soon as a stress response arises, all sorts or things happen in your body. Your blood sugar rises, your nerves are tense, and you produce adrenaline. Koen: "This mechanism in our body still works today as it did 5000 years ago, when there was a real chance that you might suddenly find yourself face to face with a wild animal. In a stress response, your body in fact anticipates a physical effort. It thinks, "Oh, there's danger, so very soon I will have to run or fight". This means that your mind is 100% engaged." And that is a good thing when there is real danger. If you suddenly stand face to face with a bear, you can't start thinking "what fine weather we're having today". If we replace the bear with a fast-approaching car or a dangerous dog, you can imagine that we are still happy with our body's automatic response.
No danger, but still a stress response
Where a physical effort will really follow, for instance because you have to run from a dangerous dog, there will also come a time when that danger is over. The dog is back on its lead and there is no more danger. At that point, your body can relax again. But at the same time, the stress response often continues even where there is no longer any physical reason for it. "What happens if your business is not doing well, you are barely able to meet your deadlines, or you still have piles of work to do that seem to be endless? You get a stress response in such cases as well. In this case, the process will not be over in an hour, but may last an entire day or a whole week, month or even year. Your body is then in a continuous stress mode and anticipates your physical effort. As a result, your energy goes up and down like a yoyo. Your head is constantly engaged in what gives you stress," Koen explains.
The power of the cold
The cold is very powerful against such stressful thoughts. And that is where the Icetub can come in handy. Koen explains: "in contrast to the stress that you used to experience, you now give your body an actual physical stress response. You get into the water and get a fright reaction, which makes you short of breath. You then try deliberately and calmly to control your breathing again.. There is no room for other thoughts. You are completely focused on the cold."
Destressing in an ice bath
An ice bath reduces your stress level. For at the moment when you get out, you feel an oasis of peace and relaxation. Because now your body realizes, "Oh, yeah, I was just sitting in cold water and now am not." That is just like when the dog is back on the lead, the car that hit the brakes just in case, or the bear that turned on its heels.
Relaxation really gets you much further than stress
If you are a bit stressed or tense before a stressful event like a job interview or presentation, that does no harm. It helps you stay alert and concentrate, until after the stressful event is over. But if you are in a stress mode for a longer period, and can only think about what causes you stress, that can be very unhealthy. This means that long-standing stress brings with it a greater risk of heart problems. Koen: "At the point when you are relaxed and there is no danger, you are completely ready for creativity and to create new things as a group. That, for me, is the most powerful and appealing aspect of what happens in the cold. You reduce your stress level to 0 and are completely relaxed afterwards. It gives you space and freedom. I would really recommend it."