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Resilience and the Sea by Cliona Beirne

Why I have Embraced the Open Waters during the Global Pandemic: Introduction

I’m a twenty-five-year-old millennial living just a twenty minute walk to the ocean in Galway, Ireland. And the ocean is where I’ve been spending quite a bit of time these past eight months. Swimming. Deep breathing. Living. And it’s exhilarating. It’s resilience in every sense of the word because in the sea, I bounce back from my working day. I use this time in the deep water to feel alive, to appreciate nature and what is important to me.

Challenges and Stresses as a Millennial

A study conducted by Maynooth University Professor Audra Mockaitis (2020) states that millennials are showing lower levels of wellbeing, due primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government imposed emphasis on staff remote working. Even though we millennials live in a constantly connected bubble of social media and the next big hashtag or trending, Professor Mockaitis (2020) states that we struggled far more than the generation before us, Baby Boomers. I believe this is because we are so busy trying to be accepted that we do not know what it is like to survive as a single unit, without the potential judgement of our peers.

The lack of routine and structure from having to work at home has caused burnout of our mental health. Once surrounded by our friends in work, pubs, restaurants, our homes, have now become complete isolation for all too many millennials. A stark realisation of what the norm became for many of us – bed, kitchen, work area at home, kitchen, living room, bed. Something we are not used to and have never been exposed to is a very unwelcome loneliness. Thankfully, during the pandemic, I was counted as direct labour or frontline where we had to be in our physical working environment to complete the job responsibilities allocated. This stabilised some elements of peer interaction, much like our soon-to-be- formed swim pod where in the latest lockdown in January 2021 we began meeting up.

Why I Started Sea Swimming

Our sea swim pod became a foundation, just like a house needs to remain a solid structure. I needed to ensure that my foundation was more grounded than ever. Sea swimming brings many benefits both mentally and physically. Once you are in the water your survival mode kicks in- fight or flight, your body hits the winter waters, a cold surge overpowers your body and breathing becomes minimal, but you adapt overtime by fighting the urge to fail.

I started sea swimming because the gyms were closed, and it was something I found very hard to adapt to without the gym. I normally use the gym as my mental health ‘time out’ and to feel physically good after completing a workout. Without it I felt I had no structure to my evenings, not exercising at all and I needed some motivation. Sea swimming in winter gives a heightened adrenaline rush which has a profound effect on your body and mind (Patrick Kelleher, 2019) and this interested me as I love a challenge. The release of endorphins and serotonin even after five to ten minutes in the water has enough resiliency to withhold in the body all day (Hof, 2020). Sea swimming proved to me, psychologically, that you can overcome something which initially felt impossible and overwhelming.

How Sea Swimming has Helped my Mental Health and Resiliency

A quote on resiliency which resonates with me and often gives me pause to reflect.is,

‘’The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun’’ (www.actorsmotivation.com 2012)

Just like the oak tree, our swim pods similarities are highlighted through our strengths and resistance to allowing our collective and individual mental health to collapse in such uncertain times. The swim pod meet up at least three times a week, mentally solidifying that a routine was established – something us as humans crave.

With the whirlwind of uncertainties that each of us faced, at least we knew that meeting up was our time out to enjoy each other’s company. Each of us grasped to one another’s strengths whilst also joking about something silly someone else iterated. This was the balance that the swim pod brought, where outside disturbance was kept to a minimum and being present became the core focus of our group. Sea swimming has enabled me to conquer a new personal accomplishment. The dependency on finding a new more resilient version of myself was being able to complete daily sea swimming regardless of the weather conditions. This shows, the true power of mental strength and how you can push it far enough to alter your mood and thought process in a positive way. Throwing yourself into the icy cold Atlantic waters of Galway Bay brings upon new levels of intrinsic satisfaction through this sense of euphoria from within. A sense of completion, a sense of belonging to the swim pod group that push each other to be stronger versions of ourselves. In our group of three there is unity.

References

Napoleon hill. (2012). Resiliency. Available: https://actorsmotivation.wordpress.com/. Last accessed 30th of July 2021.

Prof Audra Mockaitis. (2020). Millennials experience most difficulties coping with Covid-19 workplace disruptions. Available: https://www.maynoothuniversity.ie/research/maynoothworks/news-events/latest- news/millennials-experience-most-difficulties-coping-covid-19-workplace- disruptions. Last accessed 01st August 2021.

Patrick Kelleher. (2019). The addictive magic of swimming in the sea in winter: ‘It’s life affirming’. Available: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/the-addictive- magic-of-swimming-in-the-sea-in-winter-it-s-life-affirming-1.4074180. Last accessed 01st August 2021.

*From Mental Health For Millennials Vol 5. On Resilience. Published by Book Hub Publishing. (2021. pp 23-28). Available from www.bookhubpublishing.com and Amazon