How emotional swimming can help with stress

How emotional swimming can help with stress

By Anita Rosebury

| May 20 , 2021

Mental health and wellness is a topic on everyone’s mind as we struggle through the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates of anxiety, depression and stress have increased dramatically over the past twelve months, with even the most stoic of us having felt some impact of the global pandemic.

Emotions are a human response to our experience in the world and they can be both positive and negative. There are many emotions - such as happiness, sadness, anger and fear - and they are complex, but they all have one thing in common - they are linked to our nervous system. Your body is responsible for your internal messaging system and how you physically react to things, while your mind is responsible for processing your emotional reaction.

The most common reaction we tend to have is ‘fight or flight’ when we are facing situations that cause us fear and surprise. Your reaction to these events can be the difference between whether you live or die. In the modern world, ‘fight or flight’ situations tend to be situations such as being robbed in the street or losing your job.  But they can also be triggered by any sort of change to your everyday situation - something that many of us have faced recently with the onslaught of COVID-19.

 These situations can trigger hormones which if left unmanaged, can lead to chronic or long-term, stress-related illnesses. Once the situation has passed and you are still alive, the body returns to a state of rest and resumes its normal routine. The problem these days is that we are facing lots of unexpected changes on a daily basis, which means our nervous system may be dominating our day-to-day life making us unable to return to a state of rest - leaving us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

 One way to break this cycle of stress and return to a state of rest is swimming - preferably open water swimming.

 The benefits of open water swimming include:

  • Breathing is a fundamental part of swimming and it can regulate your nervous system. If you are swimming outdoors you will need to regulate your breathing to negate the shock reaction to the cold as you hit the water. When you start swimming you will also need to use trickle breathing to allow for efficient relaxed swimming.
  • Physical Activity. Any sort of physical activity is good for stress, as it encourages the release of ‘happy’ hormones. If swimming isn’t your thing, then try walking or mountain biking
  • Positive Social Interaction. When you are swimming outdoors it is often safer to swim in a group and this can introduce you to a safe space with good people, where interaction is built on positivity. This experience of kindness and value should help your body to find a state of rest.
  • Swimming is one of those sports that people can’t help but enjoy and there are often comic moments when something touches your leg, or you slip over on the way into the sea. Laughter really is the best medicine for stress as it can reduce adrenaline and increase endorphins.


 As you can see, swimming is a great way to reduce stress and leave you feeling in a great mood. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your changing robe, head to the sea and start swimming - safely of course!