If one thing for certain has come of this COVID situation, it is that we are all a bit more stressed than usual.
Now, more than ever, it is particularly important to be focusing on both our mental and physical health so that we do not become totally deranged. Of course, this can prove difficult given the restrictions to both our physical and social freedoms, but I would like to offer some advice on how to manage stress from your own home. In fact, your own shower.
I set up Chilly Dippers just over a year ago now as a mental health initiative aimed at introducing natural coping mechanisms to help combat everyday stresses and anxieties. For so long I have enjoyed cold-water swimming and have felt its first-hand benefits to my mental health as I plunge into the icy cold!
I have been lucky enough to persuade lots of students in joining me to strip off into their finest swimming frocks and run in to the sea / rivers / lidos, all to raise awareness for the improvements it can have on one’s own state of health. Although it may not sound like the most attractive thing to be doing, there is a wealth of scientific evidence to prove just how much the body and brain react to help you enjoy that icy kick. Given we are not all able to use the sea so frequently, you can get the same cold-water benefits from changing your shower temperature to freezing for the very last 30 seconds.
The cold shock forces your blood cells to surface, helping to warm extremities and adapt us to the cold.
It boosts your immune system through increasing your white blood cell count, as your body is forced to react to the changing conditions.
It gives you a natural high with its release of Endorphins & Adrenaline.
It is a great way to reduce stress…
When you are submerged in cold water, your body is thrown into “fight-or-flight” mode. In this case, all external stresses and everyday panics are suppressed by the thought of how to manage this cold situation, right here, right now. The cold captivates you completely and, in this sense, offers perspective on any other problems.
It is a great opportunity to regulate your breathing to help you cope in a situation of stress; focusing on a deeper inhale and exhale.
It offers a chance to push yourself in a totally different environment. Once you leave the water (with a warm towel and cup of tea), you will look back at what you have just done with a great sense of achievement. It will leave you feeling on Cloud Nine once you’ve accomplished it.
Since starting Chilly Dippers, I’ve been lucky enough to persuade people to take the plunge with me in Edinburgh’s Portobello Beach as well as The Serpentine Lido. It’s been fantastic seeing how people are willing to open up to each other (and total strangers) about their personal experiences with mental health, and how sports & nature provide similar resources of refuge to them.
With obvious restrictions prohibiting The Chilly Dippers meet-ups in the last few weeks, I have started ‘The Chilly Dippers Challenge’. A challenge in which you get on your favourite swimmers, hop in a freezing cold shower and really try to focus on your breathing to feel the benefits for yourself. There are no COVID restrictions on a cold shower! Once you’ve done this, your endorphin levels should be flying, and now you can tag x3 friends to do the same. A proper set up for your day ahead!
By Olivia Sharron