More and more people are turning to cold water swimming because of the mental health benefits it can bring – especially linked to help improving anxiety, dementia and depression. Scientific research is discovering cold water immersion can prepare you, both mentally and physically, to better deal with any stress that may come your way.
We’re fortunate to live on such a beautiful island with so many lovely bays to take a dip in, but sea swimming, especially during the colder months, should be conducted with extreme caution.
If you’re in good health, start your sea swimming journey with small dips (no more than 10 minutes) and never swim alone. See how you feel after you get out and extend your time in the water gradually. How much cold an individual body can take will vary from day to day, depending on sleep, health, stress, recent acclimatisation, what you’ve eaten, and the time of day.
Always enter the water slowly, in a controlled way. One of the first things you will learn to control as a winter sea swimmer is the ‘gasp’ reflex, where it feels as if the cold water has punched the air out of your lungs, and you can’t breathe. If this happens to you, exhale strongly. Then concentrate on slowing your breathing rate and taking a few steady head up breaststrokes. Stay in the shallow water until you can control your breath so that, if need be, you can stand up or walk back out.
Another trick, to help acclimatise to the cold water, is to dab sea water on yourself before you immerse your entire body. Pat cold water on your cheeks and face, the back of your neck and pulse points – inside of wrists and elbows. Do this a few times until you’ve acclimatised to the cold water and feel ready to get in.
Don’t let the shock of cold water put you off sea swimming. It’s important to highlight the risks associated with cold water swimming and help suggest ways to overcome what you may experience. Always follow sea swimming safety advice properly and do some research using the links provided at the bottom of this page for further information, before you take your first cold water dip.
NEVER SWIM ALONE AND DO NOT START SEA SWIMMING IN WINTER WITHOUT SUPPORT AND ADVICE FROM AN EXPERIENCED SEA SWIMMER.
If you have a cardiac or other significant medical condition, it is not recommended that you take up sea swimming without seeking medical advice first.
Join in the fun and keep a look out for local Christmas Day sea swims taking place, but read the Outdoor Swimming Society’s advice about festive swimming dos and don’ts before jumping in:
There’s sea swimming clubs and groups that swim throughout the year, like the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club or the Mermaids and Mermen in Jersey, pictured below. Photo credit: Paul Lakeman.
Swimming in the sea brings with it many health benefits, for both body and mind:
Read more about the benefits of sea swimming on health and wellbeing in the Outdoor Swimming Society’s article:
After experiencing difficult times, Annabel found daily sea swimming to be the perfect tonic for her mind, as well as for her aching knees and back. She realised that being in the water, in the fresh air, helped her so much more than the various medications she had tried over the years.
Upon returning to Jersey, Annabel decided to take her first plunge in Rozel Bay, even though it was “bloody cold”! Knowing how much sea swimming had helped her in Australia, she knew it would have the same positive effect on her health and happiness, albeit a few degrees cooler!
Annabel felt a passion rise from within to drive awareness of the mind health benefits of sea swimming, and so Sea Clearly was born.
In addition to her full–time job, Annabel has spent many hours in the sea with local residents. She’s smashing the stigma around mental health – preferring to use the term ‘mind health’ – and is giving people the opportunity to try sea swimming in a safe, non-judgmental space.
“It’s free. It’s easy to fit into your day. It’s great for body and mind.”
You should always be extremely careful if sea swimming in the colder months, especially if you are not used to it, or aren’t a very strong swimmer. Always follow outdoor swimming safety advice, including:
You'll also find some ideas and information about groups and organisations you can join to get you moving more in our Move More Directory!