While most people try to reduce the stress they feel each day, tech executives in Silicon Valley are trying to get themselves more worked up. These researchers are self-inducing “positive” stress because they believe it improves their work performance, according to a report by CNBC.
Positive stress practitioners, who are mainly tech workers, practice a routine of combining extreme temperatures, restrictive diets, vigorous exercise routines, and general discomfort. They were inspired by influencers in entertainment, business, and science. They believe that practicing these habits will help them live better and longer, or work better for longer.
Zachary Rapp, a positive stress practitioner, runs three various health and biotech start-up businesses. He has a routine of fasting, taking cold showers, practicing hot yoga, and following restrictive dieting. He sleeps five to seven hours each night and drinks a glass of wine or scotch as a rare treat. Rapp wakes up early in the morning, goes for a run, drink black coffee while reading e-mails, and then taking a freezing cold shower. He said this routine helps him reduce the stress of running three different start-ups for 18 hours a day. He also said that he only gets sick once a year.
“Right now I’m trying to push through an inhuman amount of work,” Rapp told CNBC.
Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete, is a thought leader in the positive stress movement. He even earned the name “ice man” because he can withstand extreme cold using deep breathing exercises. He conducted a speaking tour in 2017 and a series of workshops talking about his ideas and strategies for better work ethic. As a result, cold showers have became a thing in Silicon Valley and some even consider it as a form of therapy.
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Joel Runyon, a triathlete who trademarked the term “cold shower therapy” conducted TED talks about his passion for cold showers and developed a mobile app so fellow advocates could challenge themselves. Moreover, he credits Hof for also influencing the tech experts.
Ryan Holiday, another positive stress influencer, wrote several books to revive stoicism, a 2,000-year-old set of ideas that promotes self-control and a lack of indulgence.
However, “positive stress” is not for all. Joon Yun, also from Silicon Valley and the benefactor of a $1 million prize that aims to reward researchers for hacking the aging code, said that forcing the body to endure extreme temperatures is not advisable as it can “kill people who are not young.” Instead, he prefers the concept of “functionality longevity,” which involves different strategies to slow down the aging process. It could involve a cool shower, instead of a freezing one, exploring a new way to work, rewarding oneself to a bag of chips once a month, or trying out different exercises at the gym. Yun stresses the importance of variety in longevity.
“That’s what health is,” Yun explained. “It’s in is the ability to tolerate stress.”
Benefits of taking a cold shower
Although taking cold showers is currently becoming a trend, it has been practiced as an ancient ritual for thousand of years already. Taking cold water baths, also known as cryotherapy, for five to 20 minutes can reduce muscle soreness by nearly 20 percent, according to some studies. On the other hand, a quick cold shower can enhance blood circulation, increase alertness, and reduce stress, according to Bryan O’Connor, a personal trainer and wellness expert. He also said that cold showers give an energizing effect on the nervous system, which enhances mood and overall well-being. Some studies have also suggested that cold showers provide anti-depressive effect on some people by sending electrical pulses from the nerve endings to the brain. (Related: Improve circulation and productivity with a cold shower: Study finds it provides an energy boost similar to coffee, resulting in fewer days off work.)