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My Cold Water Experience

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Published: May 1, 2019

Using the freezing temperatures to improve mental health


Volunteering for this was easy, I mean saying “I will do it” kind of felt exciting and the talk of wet suits and jumping in the water off the peer was all reminiscent of a much younger me, but reflecting back on the situation I had slightly different emotions than I expected.

The first time this event was to happen it was called off, I kind of felt rescued and got a sense of relief that it was out of my hands, but this time it was all systems go, a mission that had been given the green light.
I do remember thinking that I had made a mistake here, a bad call maybe, even though the cold and I were old friends (I had experienced some of the coldest temperatures in my time) this was different, I had put myself in the situation willingly!

On the day I was well prepared, I had my bag that was full of comforts, packed to military precision, I could do nothing for the feeling of dread, and anxiety.
Cold water, what even is cold water? The only time cold water was considered a good thing was in a glass waiting to be guzzled down on a hot day.  I was not making the link between how I was feeling and how the cold water would help? The journey to the sea was filled with thoughts of shivers and numb hands, that funny tickling feeling I labelled as “anxiety” in my tummy with the occasional louder thought of “what is this going to be like” spilling out into the bus. I knew I was not alone in this, and I could feel my levels rise as I was climbing into my wetsuit which seemed to take forever.

The cold water and I were about to be reunited, and down on the beach, I remember feeling the nerves hitting a peak. I just wanted this to be all over and done with, but the instructor then insisted on talking us through how cold this experience was going be, “brilliant” not.

By now I was focused on how I felt and was ready to compare the feelings I had now to what I would feel when I met the cold water.
The waves seemed to laugh at me like they already knew how I was feeling. The walk into the water was interesting and the cold immediately stung like a wasp, now I was just focused on the cold water not defeating me but helping me instead The waves rushed into my suit almost as if to say hello, it took my breath away like candy from a baby.

Hands in the water, what hands?  I could not feel them!
Up to my waist, the occasional wave would slap me on the back like we were old pals, but each one taking a piece of me to shore.
It's up to my shoulders and she is in control now, all I could do was steady my breathing, stay focused and count to ten. After a few moments, I remember feeling like the cold was part of me now, it was not so bad.

Out of the water, the wetsuit off now, this was a battle I was going to remember. Back in the water, it felt like I was being whipped, whatever that feels like and those little needles all over my skin were a reminder of why I was in this situation to begin with, fully submerged was the only way I was going to conquer this.
The feelings of dread disappeared and I knew it was going to be okay. It was like someone had flicked reset.

Feeling my body’s temperature rise was like a reward, and that night was the best night’s sleep I could wish for. I would say that I fear the cold water no more now, we were friends after all.

Fancy a dip? Try out cold water therapy for yourself and use the freezing temperatures to help improve your mental health.
Contact rob.graham@sunderland.ac.uk for more details and to book.


Dave Taylor 

Wellbeing Practitioner (Counselling)



Topic: Wellbeing

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