Rise and Shiver – Why I’ve been taking cold showers and what it’s taught me about fear

Occasionally, I’m going to write about non-food topics as I find inspiration to do so. For this, and many of these articles, I’m starting a category called “Lifestyle”. Here’s the first one. Enjoy.

It wasn’t something I ever thought I’d do. In fact, just the idea sounded utterly ridiculous. Why would someone even consider taking a cold shower? It had to be the stupidest thing imaginable. Then I heard someone mention it and immediately said “I must do that.” I’m not sure why it struck a chord with me, because I hate being cold. Absolutely hate it.

Before my first venture into liquid Arctic blast, to be sure, I Googled “will taking a cold shower kill me?”. I didn’t find a definitive “no”, but I didn’t find anything that said it would either, so it seemed like a go. I also saw lists of benefits that came up with my search, but I honestly didn’t care about those. Who knew if they were even legit? The internet says everything will make me superhuman on one site and then on another it will end my life. Except cold showers, apparently. Those won’t kill me.

I prepped the way I do for any shower – remove clothing, put towel in convenient place, turn on water. Of course, this time the dial was only turned a tiny bit. I wouldn’t be needing heat, though I still sat there watching the water fall as if I was waiting for some. I stuck my hand in to make sure it was the right temperature. I supposed it was.

As the cold water was running, I realized I was absolutely terrified. Was it going to be super uncomfortable? Maybe even painful? Was I going to pass out? Could I power through it? I had no idea what to expect. I switched back and forth between feelings of excitement and terror. Then I figured “what’s the worst that could happen?” And then I jumped in.

“Oh my God! Why did I do this?” I shivered uncontrollably as the frigid water first poured over my head and shoulders, tingled as it ran down my spine, and started to numb my more sensitive areas. My hands were cold. The back of my neck was cold. Everything was…well…cold, and I had some time before that was going to change.

The icy water hit like a ton of bricks. “Ooooohhhhh” and “ARGHHHHHH,” I yelled, alternating between high-pitched yelps and lower tones similar to what one might make when moving heavy furniture. It was indeed brutally uncomfortable. Soon, much of my body was anesthetized. I wet myself down and lathered up. Then a couple important areas of my body started to hurt. One was my head and the other will go unmentioned.

For the first few attempts, I turned up the temperature to the point where it was only very cold. Oddly, that seemed pretty tolerable. I’d finish my shower, turn off the water, and grab my towel. My skin was numb and red, but I was cozy as if the heat was cranked up, though it wasn’t. I felt good. I promised myself that I would do better as time went on by keeping the water frigid all the way through.

One day, after less than a week, I decided to change it up. I would go in without the water on and turn it on while I was in there. First, the water came out very cold and then, once the remainder of the slightly heated water expired, the freezing water arrived. That was easier because that tiny bit of initial heat made the first seconds more tolerable, but still prepared me for what was to come.

My new method helped me get through the entire process without ever using any warmer water. It wasn’t easy and required turning toward and away a few times as I experienced pain. The worst was washing my hairless dome. As I finished rinsing it, the brain freeze became so painful I actually did think I might lose consciousness. I rinsed off the shampoo, turned off the water, and 30 seconds later, I was fine. I figured time would make it easier.

I’ve been taking there’s-no-way-the-water-heater-is-kicking-on type showers for a month now. I’m still scared every time, but I get through it every time and the pain is becoming less with each attempt. Am I maneuvering to avoid water in certain areas or am I just used to it? It’s probably a combination of both, but either way, it’s getting more tolerable and seems slightly less bone-chilling. The best part about it is that I’m learning something about myself.

I now know that I can overcome fears by just doing whatever it is I’m scared of. Thinking about taking a shower that cold made me consider if I had lost my mind, but actually doing it made me believe in myself. The ability do to something in the face of intense fear – and it really was intense – can be life altering. I will continue, hoping that the next time something scary jumps in my path, I will attack it the same way. I might experience trepidation initially, but if I just take that first step and go for it, over time I suspect it will turn into enthusiasm. Now pardon me while I go put another notch in my shower cap.

Stay hungry.

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Peter Blanchette

About Peter Blanchette

Peter Peter Portland Eater grew up in Lewiston, Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in English. After college, he left the state to work in Massachusetts, but the allure of a more comfortable life in his home state brought him back after eight years. Upon his return and after meeting his now wife – Mrs. Portlandeater, he slowly integrated himself into the Portland food scene by trying as many restaurants as he could afford. That and a desire to write for others again led him to start Peterpeterportlandeater.com where he reviews restaurants and blogs about whatever Portland/Maine food topics he finds interesting.