By Scott Blair

Mental health is a hot-button topic in the Black community these days. However, access to help or treatment isn’t always feasible. Medication and psychiatrists often don’t come cheap, so according to Anissa Durham of Word In Black  black people are seeking out less expensive options to reduce stress and anxiety to boost their overall mental well-being. 

Cold therapy or cold exposure is becoming a popular low-cost option to reduce stress and anxiety and battle depression. Here we’ll discuss the possible benefits of cold therapy and whether it’s worth it or not. Read on to learn more.

What is Cold Exposure Therapy?

Cold Exposure Therapy is when you immerse yourself in any form of cold temperatures. Even mildly cold temperatures like 45-58 degrees Fahrenheit may benefit your health.

Types of Cold Exposure Therapy

There are several ways to do cold exposure therapy:

  • Ice Bath
  • Frozen Blanket
  • Take a Walk in the Cold
  • Cold Water Plunge
  • Cold Shower
  • Whole Body Cryotherapy

A good old-fashioned ice bath can work wonders. Professional athletes have used this tactic to heal their bodies and reduce swelling for years. However, jumping in an ice bath for 5-10 minutes can also reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. This method costs a few bucks but nothing close to a therapist. You’ll need to buy about $40 worth of ice.

A frozen blanket only costs you the price of the blanket which you likely already have. Turn your shower to its coldest level and wet the entire blanket. Then, either put it outside in below-freezing temps or wrap it up and put it in your freezer if you can. After some time, check and see if it’s frozen. Once frozen, wrap it around your body.

Take a walk in 25 degrees Fahrenheit or below weather or find a cold body of water and take the plunge. If those aren’t options, take a cold shower. Or, at the end of your shower, take about 3-5 minutes to spray yourself with the coldest water you can handle. The colder, the better.

Lastly, you can try Whole Body Cryotherapy. This is the most expensive of the options but still much less than a therapist or what certain medications can cost. Whole Body Cryotherapy is when you go into a chilled tank. It’s basically like a stand-up tanning booth but freezing. The temperatures are anywhere from -200 to -256 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll typically be in the booth for three to three and a half minutes.

With all of these methods, you’ll most likely get to a point of zen, which is also great for your mental well-being.

Benefits of Cold Exposure Therapy

May Reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Sorenes or DOMS

May Help With Depression & Anxiety

Might Help Immune Function

Could Promote Fat Loss

The Vagus Nerve & Cold Exposure Therapy

The Vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the human body. Many scientists and doctors believe it affects several functions of the body. Some experts believe it can help with depression, inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease might be mediated by the vagus nerve. When you stimulate the Vagus nerve or use Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) it may help with several key functions in your body and promote overall well being; however, VNS needs to be studied more before any conclusions can be made.

Mental Health & Black Communities

All communities face mental health challenges.  However, Black communities often deal with more stigma and discrimination while receiving compromised care. 16% of Black people in the US reported having a mental illness in the past year. That’s 7 million people, which is more than the population of Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia combined.

Compounding the issue, many Black people distrust the medical system and, therefore, don’t seek mental help. Black providers are known to give more appropriate and effective care to Black patients. However, black providers comprise a very small portion of the behavioral health provider workforce.

A Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows that Black people living below the poverty line are twice as likely to experience psychological distress than those living two times over the poverty line. According to this CDC study, Black people are less likely to die from suicide than whites. However, this study shows that Black teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than whites at a rate of 9.8% to 6.1%, respectively.

Taking care of your mental health is important. It’s even more important for the Black community due to the abovementioned factors. Cold exposure therapy is an inexpensive way to reduce stress and anxiety while battling depression, which can lead to negative or horrific outcomes.

Mental Health Resources for Texas Residents