Imagine exposing your body to -175 degrees Fahrenheit in a cryo-chamber wearing nothing but your undergarments, socks, gloves, and a face mask. This radical experience is called cryotherapy, a treatment that is quickly growing in popularity across the nation.
Once mainly used by professional athletes to fast track their healing potential, cryotherapy is now becoming readily available to most individuals who want to feel the frosty bite of the cold in order to experience its many healing benefits.
You might be thinking, why would anyone want to purposefully put themselves in this situation?
And the answer is that cryotherapy has a number of potential benefits, including:
• Reduced inflammation and chronic pain • Eased arthritis and muscle soreness • Burns an additional 300 calories following a whole body cryotherapy session • Improved sleep • Increased feel-good hormone serotonin and a decrease of the stress hormone cortisol • Stimulated endorphins and improved focus • Promoted blood circulation for better skin
After doing some research on this type of treatment, I decided to try cryotherapy for myself. Driving to the location I felt very nervous, what would it feel like? Will I be able to stay in the full three minutes?
When I arrived for my appointment I changed into the required attire (sports bra, shorts, socks, slippers, gloves, and a face mask) and watched as another brave soul went into the cryo-chamber before me. Within three minutes she was done, glistening with frost patches attached to her arms and face. Even though I witnessed her come out alive, I was still very nervous for what was to come.
Before I went in, I was able to pick a song that would be funneled through the speakers in the cryo-chamber during my three-minute experience. I had some concerns about feeling trapped while in the chamber, but those were quickly softened when I saw that it was a clear door that was easily pushed open if I wanted to exit.
I stepped into the chamber and immediately heard my body say “NOPE, GET OUT NOW.” My sympathetic nervous system had kicked in telling me to get out, that it wasn’t safe. I incorporated my breathing techniques and told myself that I was safe, that I could open the door at any point I needed to, and that it was only going to last a short while.
My nerves softened and I danced in the chamber to the song I had chosen. The three minutes went by and then I was done. They took my body temperature after exiting and I had dropped from 97 degrees to 54 degrees Fahrenheit. I felt full of energy, my skin and body buzzing with life and excitement. I felt like I had just done something courageous and amazing.
When you enter the chamber, it stimulates your body with extremely cold temperatures, putting your body in a state of shock, kickstarting the self-repair process. There are benefits to putting yourself in such stressful situations physically that are under your control.
Purposeful stress allows the body and mind to become resilient to situations when stress is activated without your control. Purposeful stress can strengthen one’s nervous system and mindset, making us more resilient when hard times come our way unexpectedly.
If you’re considering trying a cryotherapy session, please consult your doctor and the wellness center where you are booking your appointment to discuss any contraindications for reasons why you shouldn’t do cryotherapy. If you’re not quite ready for extremely cold temperatures but are still interested in trying some level of cold exposure, you can utilize a cold shower or ice bath to the level you are comfortable and to the degree that your physician agrees upon.
Experiencing cold water for up to two minutes while in a shower or ice bath can invite similar effects to one’s nervous system over time. When we allow short periods of purposeful stress that are under our control while also inviting breathing and a positive mindset, we are building resilience to unexpected stress we will ultimately face in our daily lives.
(Please consult your physician before trying cryotherapy, extremely cold showers, or ice baths)