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When Anxiety rears it's ugly head

Overcoming another irrational fear.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with water. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel a lot as a small child as my Dad often worked abroad, so Mum, my brother and I could join him in a tropical country in the school holidays. Here began my love of swimming in warm swimming pools, spending hours cooling off in the hot sun.

The rest of the time I lived in the cold UK. During one of these colder days, I was dressed in my swimming togs in the school pool up to my knees, not feeling too great. The swimming teacher wanted to get us all into the water quickly to start our swimming lessons so told everybody, after the count of three, to sit down in the pool and get our shoulders under. I struggled to do this. I was feeling really cold already and just wanted to get out and go home. In order to encourage me, the teacher said, “Come on, I’m going to count to three again and if you don’t get in fully, then everybody is going to splash you.” I was about six years old at the time and I just wanted to cry. I was shivering, and the next thing I know, all the other kids were splashing me and laughing.

As an adult now, I can see how upsetting that was as a child, but I wouldn’t necessarily label it as traumatic. My subconscious mind, however, felt differently and from that moment on, cold water was my biggest fear. I would only swim in a heated pool and rarely in the sea, unless it was tropical.

My kids were water babies (I taught them to swim in a heated pool). When we arrived in New Zealand they swam in the sea in June (still warmer than the UK sea in summer), but I found it so cold I would not even put my feet in it. We lived in Papamoa and I would love walking the dog along the beach looking at the water, but I just couldn’t go in it. Then, four years ago, we moved to Omokoroa, which must be one of the safest beaches in the Bay, but I still could not bring myself to go swimming.

That was until my friend Rina casually said to me a few months back, “I have been reading up about how swimming in cold water is so good for your body, inflammation, weight loss and your immune system. Do you fancy joining me for a swim each week and we can see how far into the colder season we can go?”

I am a therapist who helps people take back control of anxiety, so as soon as I felt the panic attack taking over my body, I said, “Yes, why not?” At the same time, my whole mind and body was screaming “NOOOOO… What are you doing?” I realised it was time, once again, to practice what I preach. And so it began. Rina and I have been swimming in Omokoroa harbour for the last two months and it is getting colder, but it is empowering me and invigorating me at the same time. Yes, I still get the anxiety trying to rear its ugly head when I am up to my waist and need to get my shoulders in, but that’s the beauty of having a caring friend as an accountability partner. We slowly breathe, apply the water to our arms and then count to three gently, looking at each other before we plunge in and swear rather loudly. Then, once I’m in, the fear is over as I remind my subconscious mind that I survived, it didn’t kill me, it wasn’t that bad and actually I feel great. Anxiety convinces us that we cannot do it, it is dangerous or, “I might have a heart attack.” Yet here I am, alive and well.

Don’t let fear and old programming stop you from living. If it is time for you to free yourself, contact me at Stop existing and start living again.


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