I’ve been taking an ice bath for 30 days and this is what I hope to achieve

Three years ago, I was given the worst news an expecting mom could hear.

“I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.”

I was almost 20 weeks together with our daughter after having two previous uneventful and uncomplicated pregnancies with our boys. About a year later, we lost our third child at 15 weeks. No response was given on either occasion. After many, many tests, we just got an apology and a “green light” to try again.

When was the last time you did something that made you uncomfortable?

When was the last time you did something that made you uncomfortable? (Photo/Police1)

So when I found out I was pregnant in early 2022, my husband and I were terrified. I held my breath throughout my pregnancy. I was afraid to tell anyone for fear of losing my son. Everything was said in “if”:

“If he comes home, this would be the perfect crib for him.”

Thirty-five weeks went by and everything was normal until it wasn’t anymore. I woke up one morning and noticed a significant decrease in my son’s movement. In the back of my mind, I was preparing for the worst. I didn’t say it out loud, but my mother’s gut knew something was wrong, especially since he’d been moving like a maniac from the moment I felt his kicks.

A visit to the hospital confirmed our worst fears.

His heart seemingly stopped out of nowhere. Many hours later, we had our answer: three real knots in her umbilical cord. I’ve been told this occurs in about 1%-2% of all pregnancies. This made me feel super lucky. I’ll never forget the moment her heart stopped and mine kept beating. It was the same moment my heart broke.

In an effort not to go too deep here, I’ve been chasing my sense of control ever since. And even though I’ve been told many times that I have to let go of that control, it’s been an impossible request for my Type-A personality.

To make sure I was taking care of myself physically and more importantly mentally, I focused on the things I knew would make me feel better. Even if I didn’t have control over the outcomes of our three sorely missed children, I could still make decisions that would make me feel less overwhelmed and stuck.

That meant eating right again, drinking a gallon of water a day, exercising, meditating, getting outdoors, and talking to a therapist. But even after all those things, I still felt lost and full of fear.

Indication: ice baths.

Growth through intentional discomfort

The last time I took an ice bath was during my high school cross country days. I don’t remember much about them, just that it was uncomfortable, cold, and against my will.

Fast forward to today, I’ve started a new series on Police1, titled Emerging Trends in Officer Wellness. This special series is all about making sure first responders are being intentional for their well-being, and sometimes that means thinking outside the box and feeling uneasy.

I’ve been reading about the physical and mental health benefits of cold water therapy for some time, but I kept finding excuses to take the freezing plunge.

Some of the physical health benefits of ice baths include:

  • Muscle pain relief
  • Improved blood flow
  • An increase in immunity
  • Increased metabolism
  • Reduced cortisol levels

And a handful of the mental health benefits of ice baths include:

  • Decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Greater mental resilience
  • Greater mental focus
  • Improved sleep

Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete who created the Wim Hof ​​method, which consists of daily immersion in cold water while practicing breathing, began his journey of cold water therapy after the death of his wife. The daily dip in the cold water, according to Hof, allowed him to cope with his pain. The continued practice, he said, has made him more resilient to stress and depression, allowing him to raise their four children alone.

But it wasn’t until I read an article about a woman who found healing through cold water therapy after her husband’s sudden death that I finally stopped making excuses. In the article, the author, Heather Ashley, a Wim Hof ​​instructor, says that dipping her in the cold six days a week relieved her stress and improved her mental resilience.

“You’ll never know what you’re going to face in life. But anything you can do to build your inner resilience will help you hold your hand when life has thrown a huge ball at you,” Ashley wrote.

The next day, I bought a cold plunge to start my 30-day ice bath journey.

I can do difficult things

It takes time to turn a new behavior into a habit.

My advice after years of heartache and loss? Choose one behavior (start small) that you want to turn into a habit, because it may take longer than you think for it to become second nature. The process takes patience, discipline, and commitment.

After losing our daughter and our third child, I made it a point to practice daily meditation after struggling with severe stress and sleep issues. Three years later, I can confidently say that my daily meditation practice has changed my life. Not only did it get me back to my normal sleep pattern, but it made me calmer and less prone to spiraling downwards when things didn’t go the way I planned.

[READ: 23 wellness tips for law enforcement officers in 2023]

I know from experience that doing anything for 30 days isn’t enough to make it a habit. But I know myself: once I start something, I won’t stop.

So here are three things I hope happens in the next 30 days of ice bathing:

  1. The ability to face my fears: I have never considered myself a fearful person. I mean, I’ve already jumped myself out of a perfectly good airplane. However, after losing the children, I was afraid of many things. Above all, I am afraid of losing my two children alive. But my new fears became all-encompassing and stole some of the joy out of my life.

    The 30 Day Ice Bath Challenge will not only push me out of my comfort zone (literally), but it will force me to remember that I can overcome my fears one step at a time. Three minutes doesn’t seem like a lot to think about what’s bothering you that day, but with your breathing and calming your body in near-freezing temperatures, you’ll start thinking about your fears or problems. But with that thought process comes the mental clarity to start finding solutions to face fears head-on (or so I hope).

  2. Becoming Mentally Resilient: I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard the phrase “You’re so strong” after going through three heartbreaking losses. The truth is, for the last few years, I’ve felt anything but strong. And I’m not talking about physical strength. Taking an ice bath will be uncomfortable. Embracing discomfort, so I’ve read, leads to mental toughness. Ice baths will be a reminder to push myself to do hard things. Because when life decides to throw something hard my way (and I know there will be plenty of other times to do that), it won’t be that hard to get over it. I’m training myself to fight the pain (and build my resilience) over the next 30 days of ice baths.
  3. Focusing on the things I can control: As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t control the outcome of any situation. The need to feel in control over my life has led to anger and anxiety. Again, two things I’m not used to. But I can focus on the things I can control like my breathing, self-care practices, getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, drinking enough water, exercising, and yes, taking an ice bath to keep my mind sharp. With 30 days of ice baths, I hope I can finally let go of some mental clutter to reduce my stress levels, but most importantly, remember to focus on what’s important to me and my family.

Those three accomplishments are tall orders, I know.

And I don’t know if any of those things will come out of my 30 Day Ice Bath Challenge, but I’ll put in the time, effort, and discipline to go for it.

Take part in the 30 day ice bath challenge

When was the last time you did something you were afraid of or that made you uncomfortable?

Join me on my 30 day ice bath challenge on YouTube or Instagram where I will post my daily ice bath. Use the hashtag #Police1IceBathChallenge and we’ll include your videos in an upcoming Police1 article.

During my ice baths, I’ll talk about ways you can start taking care of yourself, which can be a challenge for officers who are working overtime shifts and are already struggling to find a work-life balance. If you want to learn a new way to take care of yourself both physically and mentally, take the plunge. Stop with the what ifs and start with the why nots.

NEXT: Ice Bath Therapy for Law Enforcement Officers: Physical and Mental Benefits of Cold Water


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