Don’t miss the video at the end
One of the biggest focuses of my life has become the need to stay physically, mentally, and spiritually fit. Sure, I enjoy being active and want to perform well when I’m skiing or riding my bike, but that’s not the primary focus. As an parent of an autistic child, I have felt the exhaustion in all three categories of fitness too many times to count. I’ve recognized that if I want to parent well and lead a family the best way possible, I have to stay in shape in all aspects of my being. While no one can argue that staying in good physical shape is just something we all should do, many times the mental and spiritual aspects get overlooked. As a parent, it’s imperative that we tend to all aspects of our health and body so that we set ourselves up for success.
Many of you know that I find my spiritual strength from God. Continual and dedicated time spent in prayer, meditation, worship, and scripture reading is the only way I know how to stay spiritually fit. And for me, it works. I will address that more as time goes on. Today I want to talk about mental wellness and one of the best mental hacks I’ve found.
We all experience seasons when life just isn’t going well. Often times, if we’re facing a challenging situation, it can affect our mood so badly that it starts to compound problems in other areas of our lives. And when the weight of everything is too much to bear, sometimes it’s hard to snap out of a funk. So how do we hit the reset button? How do we train our minds to stay strong in adversity?
Last fall, I was chatting with my friend Greg Anderson. Greg is former special forces (Army Ranger), runs a successful jiu jitsu academy, and is a fitness strength and stamina enthusiast. So yeah, he’s a good dude to have on your side if things get weird. But what makes Greg scary to be around is his uncanny ability to encourage and push people beyond their limits to explore things they thought weren’t possible.
Greg and I were discussing cold water therapy. He had been dabbling in it, doing his research, and telling me about some of the crazy things he was up to. It was fascinating to hear the stories of not only his progression, but the unexpected positive side effects. Being curious, I thought I would try it out slowly.
I started researching the benefits of ice cold showers, and was surprised to read the laundry list of health and wellness benefits from it. So I decided to give it a try. Starting last November, each day, I would roll out of bed and jump right into a cold shower. For the first 30-45 days, it was absolutely miserable. But during that period, I recognized a few physical health benefits. My skin was no longer dry during the winter months here in the desert of central Washington, and my hair became fuller and thicker. Crazy.
But the best part of it for me was the fact that it was a massive adrenaline shot to start my day. It set my whole day off on a different path than what I was used to. I liken it to a caffeine IV. Today, the ice cold showers are a staple in my day, and they are no longer painful. I’ve even experienced situations where I needed a hot shower, and have found them uncomfortable. Yeah, weird.
To add to that adventure, I started taking an occasional cold bath. I’d fill the bathtub up with all cold, then grab a bag of ice or a shovel full of snow, and toss it in. I started out doing 8 minutes in the bath, then worked my way up to 20 minutes. The water temp was anywhere from 50-55 degrees.
I figured that activity would promote the benefits I was already experiencing. To my surprise however, I got something way different out of it. I felt a reset in my mind. Since I would do it at the end of the day, after dealing with all that day had thrown at me, I was typically doing it under mental duress. When I stepped out of the bath, I felt I had been mentally reset. I couldn’t help but draw a direct correlation between the cold bath, and mental strength needed to overcome adversity. The results were very surprising and profound.
Fast forward to today. Greg has been taking cryotherapy to the next level. He has purchased a chest freezer and converted it into a bath tub. He fills it up with water and about five pounds of Epsom salt and plugs it in. The Epsom salt allows the water to withstand normal freezing temps, and so his tub is about 27-32 degrees. He’s been at it since last year, continually training and pushing his body further. I knew my time was limited before he was going to “encourage” me to get in.
Last weekend, on a trip to see my folks, I got to spend some time with Greg. We had some great conversation about physical, mental, and spiritual wellness, and how each of us do it for various reasons. And yes, I got in the tub. My experience was surreal. I’ve had almost a week to process it, and the revelations keep coming. While it was incredibly difficult, I’m 100% positive I will go back and do it again. I may even end up having my own tub.
This post is not to brag about the stupid stuff that Greg or I do. It’s about mental grit, and going to great lengths as parent to be the absolute best we can be. You will likely have to get creative in how you handle your physiological strength and wellness to keep pushing each day. The harder you push, though, the more your entire family will benefit. Find the limit of your comfort zone, then take one more step beyond it. You may be surprised at who you become. I know I am.
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