Stuck in Quarantine? A Cold Productivity Shot May be All You Need


Nathan Kellerman

Day fourteen of COVID-19 quarantine: it’s eleven-thirty in the morning and I, normally an early-bird, have just woken up. I get up and feel a crick in my neck, regretting staying up and watching Netflix at an ungodly hour the night prior. Walking downstairs for breakfast, I think to myself: what will today entail? Will I forget to do my online school attendance again? Will I watch an entire season of a show in one sitting? Will I go play basketball in my driveway for the five hundredth time? While these activities all seem random, they all share one thing in common: they do not follow any plan or routine. Humans—at least in my experience—thrive while following a routine. When we have no procedure to our days, we lack both the self-control and motivation we need to be productive. In other words, we crave routine. And amidst the quarantine caused by this unique pandemic, it’s incredibly difficult to find this. This raises the question: what can we do to sharpen our focus and feel better about our schedules, especially during these trying times?

When considering this question, I thought of the things I was doing everyday during quarantine. Out of everything, what I did most consistently was simple—take a shower. Even though I sometimes started my school-day at one o’clock in the afternoon and had dinner at nine o’clock, I still found time to shower every day. I could work with this, I thought, which brought me to an idea I had a few months ago: taking a literal cold shower every day for a week. Of course, I had originally expected to do this experiment during school, but it was intriguing what effect this would have on quarantine life. I had originally thought that taking a cold shower everyday would not only improve mindfulness, but improve my self-control and just “wake me up” in general. The thinking behind the idea was that splashing one’s face with cold water in the morning really wakes them up—so what would shocking one’s whole body with cold water do? And thus, my extremely cold and eye-opening journey began. “This’ll be easy,” I thought, but boy was I wrong.

It was day one. I figured that I would structure my day around my cold shower, in order to establish the routine that I so desperately needed. My days were supposed to go a little like this: 8:30 AM wakeup, breakfast until 9:00, then a shower at 9:05 sharp. I was then to take my cold shower—which wasn’t bound to take long—and do schoolwork. Only after I was done all my work and some sort of exercise would I allow myself to watch Netflix or do anything else. The first day of this ran smoothly, at least until 9:05 rolled around. After being well-fed and ready for my first cold shower of the week, I turned on the water and, for the first time, felt how cold it was. Keep in mind, this wasn’t the middle of the red and blue, my shower handle was pointing at the very edge of blue, meaning Artic-like temperatures. Without a moment’s hesitation, I stepped under the freezing water and, sure enough, it was bitingly cold. As soon as I got in, I was wide awake. No longer did I feel the lull of quarantine; I was ready to get stuff done. Other than my teeth chattering at first, the rest of the shower went on without a hitch. I figured that I would become more accustomed to the temperature with time, which was reassuring. After getting settled into the school day afterwards, I had one of the most productive online learning sessions yet—if such a thing even exists. Instead of getting up every thirty minutes or so to do something non-productive, I was able to work through all the way to lunch. As for the rest of the day, I did not feel dreary—as I had the previous week—meaning my experiment was working. Most importantly however, I was able to stick to my schedule. This felt good, especially after being unable to get out of the rut previously. It seemed my sense of routine was returning.

After waking up at my planned time of 8:30 on day two, I sprung out of bed, rejuvenated by my new routine. Once again, I had a delicious breakfast—consisting of two waffles, OJ and yogurt—and walked upstairs to my room. However, I found myself stalling. Instead of entering the bathroom, I was cleaning my cluttered desk—something I had neglected for months. I was organizing my room, all to subconsciously delay stepping into the cold. After about fifteen minutes of this, I realized it and started thinking. I discerned that when normally taking showers, I sometimes experience a feeling of not wanting to go in; however, after I do so, I don’t want to get out. This raised the question: would the idea of a cold shower make it that much more rewarding to finally be done? Also, how would the shower affect my self-control? I decided that there was only one way to find out, and once again entered the tundra. Similar to the first day, it was very shocking at the start. But once I calmed down, it was just a shower. After I was once again settled into school, I decided that it was, in fact, more rewarding to take a cold shower than a normal one. This, like on day one, gave me the confidence and drive to finish my schoolwork efficiently.

The following days continued as the first and second, meaning the cold showers weren’t as bad as one would think they would be. I found that as time progressed, my showers were becoming more and more efficient—meaning shorter. This meant that not only was this five-minute activity helping me structure my day, but it was giving me more time to do other, more productive things. Additionally, as time went on, the cold nature of the shower didn’t really mean much. Instead of being a spectacle, it was just another part of my day. On days four and five, there was a stark contrast to day two, where I was pushing it off. I was now getting much better at maintaining my schedule, which made all the difference.

It finally arrived, the last day of my experiment and as expected, it was the easiest of all. The shower was, once again, just a part of my now normalized schedule. So, what does this all mean—what can we all learn from this? The most important thing I gleaned from my week of this unique experiment was that sticking to a schedule is the most important thing one can do, especially in times like these. Even if we are not aware of it, humans are afraid of the unknown. In this specific instance, we ask ourselves: when will we go back to normal? When will it be safe to go in public again? As emphasized from this experiment, the most important thing we can do in these times is act as we normally would. Without a schedule—which was enforced by the cold shower—I definitely would have gone crazy, which would have affected both family and school life negatively. This raises the final question: should you all try this experiment at home? The short answer is yes. However, what you do end up trying does not need to be as extreme as a week of actual cold showering. It can merely be setting a specific routine to follow, so that you don’t stay up until one o’clock in the morning watching TV. Even if one doesn’t have a problem with this, the mindfulness aspect of it all will make it worth their time. Maybe not everyone is up for something like this. Maybe not even everyone needs something like this. But who knows, the next time you’re in need of a productivity burst, give it a try; if one thing’s for certain, it seems like we have long and interesting times ahead.