A few weeks ago, I stuck my head in a big bowl of ice water for as long as I could. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, but I'm glad I did it. I learned a lot.
There is a lot to unpack to make sense of why I would do that. I will do my best to explain.
One of the great challenges of being a trauma survivor is hypervigilance, which means being overly alert to danger. For children at the Ranch who have experienced abuse, neglect, or other traumatic events, nothing in life has been predictable and most surprises have caused pain. As a result, their senses and emotions are always on high alert.
A critical part of a child's treatment is to learn coping skills that deescalate those emotions, as well as deescalate physical symptoms of hypervigilance like rapid heart rate and rapid breathing. Deep breathing, walking, music, and art are all coping skills we teach, but they take time and practice.
Ranch Psychologist Dr. Hannah Baczynski recently taught our kids and staff a fast-acting and scientifically-proven tool to bring down a person's heart rate and restore a sense of calm—Ice Diving or The Dunk. Ice Diving is easy to learn. It comes to us as a tool of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which can be incredibly effective for young trauma survivors.
Dr. Baczynski said, “The ice-dunk simulates the `dive reflex,’ which is what would happen if you actually were in freezing cold water and your body needed to conserve its energy to try to survive. In such a situation, your body would essentially start to slow or shut down functions that weren’t absolutely vital for survival. Our anxiety/emotions are not vital, so the cold water calms them down."
Dr. B went on to explain that you can adapt the skill. Even splashing really cold water on our face—which we sort of do instinctively—can provide some of the same benefits. The water doesn’t need to be freezing, around 65 degrees is just fine.
And then we all dunked our heads in buckets of cold ice water! Check out Dr. B's short video demonstration of ice diving.
Now, we don’t expect that the kids at the Ranch will spend their lives with a bowl of ice water around for when they get stressed. But, what a beautiful gift to show them that they can control their bodies and that their actions don’t always have to be reactions.
As for me, I did feel the change after I stuck my head in the water. It wasn’t dramatic, but it was real. And the kids loved that we all did it together.
Perhaps I should keep an ice bucket in my office.
Please keep our kids and staff in your prayers.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
You can raise funds for your congregation, Bible study group, women's group, or youth group, AND provide hope and healing for a child at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, by hosting a Honey Sunday.
For decades, congregations across the United States have held Honey Sundays. We invite you to join them — and bring God’s love to a child by organizing a Honey Sunday fundraiser.
Honey Sunday keeps the focus on the work of our Lord, your church, and the Ranch. And we make it easy for you to do by sending everything you’ll need. We'll even mail the honey directly to people's homes, so you don't have to worry about distribution.
To request your Honey Sunday materials, fill out the form here!
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