Like everyone who works on the internet for a living, I went through a short "Wim Hof" phase in 2015.
If you're not familiar, Wim Hof is known as the "Ice Man." He became famous for his ability to withstand cold temperatures.
How well does he withstand cold, you ask? From Hof's Wikipedia page:
"Hof has set the world record for longest time in direct, full-body contact with ice a total of 16 times, including 1 hour, 42 minutes and 22 seconds on 23 January 2009; 1 hour, 44 minutes in January 2010; and 1 hour 53 minutes and 2 seconds in 2013."
If that's not enough for you:
"On 16 March 2000, Hof set the Guinness World Record for farthest swim under ice, with a distance of 57.5 metres (188.6 feet). The swim at a lake near Pello, Finland was filmed for a Dutch television program, and a test run the previous day almost ended in disaster when his corneas started to freeze and he was swimming blind."
Hof promotes the "Wim Hof Method," a combination of Yogic breathing and cold exposure that promises to make you extremely healthy, thin, and immune to stress. This was the way that I was first exposed to Hof, as the "Wim Hof Method" made the rounds on a variety of podcasts and blogs, including the Tim Ferriss Show.
I attended one of Wim Hof's events and tried dunking myself in an ice-filled kiddie-pool alongside 15-20 other potential Ice Men and Women.
(I assumed that because there were many other people sitting in thre, their body heat would warm up the pool. I can report to you now that this is not how ice works, and it was, in fact, wildly unpleasant.)
I didn't stick with the program for a variety of reasons.
Like most people, I tend to bounce off programs of this type once the novelty wears off and the benefits aren't immediately apparent.
I also didn't enjoy the breathing exercises, which left me feeling extremely light-headed.
I filed Wim Hof away in the giant pile of self-improvement-fads-I-have-experimented-with and never thought about it again.
Fast-forward to now.
To say last two years have been stressful would be a dramatic understatement.
The pandemic caught me completely off-guard, triggering a cascade of survival anxiety that I didn't know I had in me.
I worried about my wife, my kids, our income, our savings, whether we had enough oatmeal in the house (I bought a 20 lb. bad of oatmeal, so yes, we had more than enough oatmeal).
I worried about risk management and risk tolerance and whether all my clients would go out of business and whether I'd have to let my team go.
2020 mercifully passed and a new reality emerged. This one was different, and strange in many ways, but at least approached normalcy.
Then my life started to fall apart again.
My relationships came under strain. I felt uncertain, angry, resentful, hurt. Looking back today, I can say that I am ashamed of how I acted and treated those I cared about. At the time, I was too wrapped up in my own personal dramas to notice.
Those negative feelings affected my business, where I dropped the ball on any number of basic duties, took on unnecessary risk and completely missed the underlying issues that would eventually smack me, firmly, in my stupid face.
To put it succinctly:
I've been stressed out of my mind.
Because these undulating waves of stress started disrupting my sleep, I found it hard to concentrate, especially in the morning when I deal with the kids. I was yelling at them more, paying less attention, less fun to be around in general.
I kept thinking: this is your life, and you're MISSING IT.
But what could I do?
Eventually, I solved this problem. How? A combination of things:
For one, the stress forced me to focus on the things that matter. I started busting my ass to improve my relationship and pick up the balls I'd dropped at work.
Secondly, I started prioritizing sleep, which helped me to actually start the day rested.
But the thing that's done the most to walk back my stress levels?
To energize me for the rest of the day?
To improve my mood and put me in the right frame of mind to be the person I want to be?
To make me feel like I could do absolutely anything I put my mind to?
Was taking a cold shower first thing in the morning.
If you just tuned out mentally because "that sounds awful" or you "could never do that," hear me out.
There are some incredible benefits to consider:
It instantly fills me with energy. Starting the day with a cold shower is better than 5 cups of coffee (and no crash afterwards).
It lightens my mood. A cold shower floods my brain with endorphins. I walk around grinning from ear to ear for an hour afterward.
It hardens me to stress. The repeated experience of encountering a shock and then calming down teaches my nervous system that I can handle whatever life throws at me.
It provides daily evidence that I can do whatever I want. Every time I step into the shower despite not wanting to (and just like lifting, you never want to), I internalize the image of myself acting in a disciplined way. When I run into trouble and feel dejected, I can see those memories in my mind's eye and rest assured that I am, in fact, a strong and capable person.
No matter how I slept or how stressed I was, starting the day with a cold shower ensures that I will kick off the morning in my best possible frame of mind.
How do you do it?
Turn the shower on cold.
Then....get in it.
Stay in it for as long as you can. Try to push it a little bit (I usually aim for two minutes, but I don't bother to time myself).
Then get out, dry off, and (this is crucial):
Pat yourself on the back.
That was an incredibly hard thing you just did. Very few people would even think to attempt it, much less actually do it. And you just did it! You are a bad ass.
Start a few mornings feeling like an absolute bad ass and you'll be hooked.
Forget all the Bro-Science and health claims or whatever. I have no idea if any of that stuff is true.
What I do know is that starting your morning with a cold shower will make you feel like you can do anything at all.
And that's worth a little cold water in the face.
SOMETHING COOL TO READ:
The trailer is out for Matrix: Resurrections.
Is there any possible way this movie could be good? Probably not.
But I'll never forget the feeling I had, walking out of the theater after seeing the very first Matrix movie. We were jumping out of our skin, we were so excited.
Why is everything nostalgic, a reboot? Besides the financial security of a built-in audience, experiences you had as a teenager were stronger, more vivid, and in many ways, more "real" than the experiences you had as a result. That makes memories tied to franchises like these particularly powerful in terms of luring you into a movie theater (or to click the "Rent Now" button on Amazon).
Better Questions Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.