- Reassure yourself that you’re not alone! Many people share similar anxieties about their bodies and everybody has to start somewhere.
- You could look for women or men-only sessions. These help to support people who feel uncomfortable about attending mixed-gender sessions.
- There are a wide range of swimming t-shirts, wetsuits and cover-ups now available to help people to access swimming comfortably.
- Some pools will allow you to take your towels or bathrobes poolside. Check with reception before you do.
Things to remember
- If you experience anxiety or panic attacks you might find swimming can cause some sensations which may feel like you’re having a panic attack. These include being unable to catch your breath or breathlessness, raised heart rate, feeling shaky or dizzy.
- When swimming, it’s also easy to hyperventilate as water may be colder than you expect. It’s best to test it out first by dipping a toe in and climbing into the pool gradually.
- Start off slowly as this may help you spot the difference between physical effects of swimming and those of a panic attack. If you do experience a panic attack, try to exit the pool and find a quiet space to recover or remain in the shallow end of the pool.
- Take deep, slow breaths when you take a break or after a set number of laps/lengths to help reduce the likelihood of you starting to hyperventilate.
What to avoid when swimming with mental health problems
- Try to avoid triggering situations. For example, if you want to avoid crowds you may want to go swimming at a quiet time (e.g. early morning, during the day, or late evening).
- Excessive swimming can be a form of self-harm. If your exercising is starting to take over your life, if you feel anxious if you miss a session, or if it’s becoming more important than work, family or friends, you could be developing an exercise or training compulsion (sometimes called an exercise addiction) and you should speak to a GP or Healthcare professional for advice
- Medication can have implications for the type and level of swimming it may be safe for you to do. Check with your GP or psychiatrist what level of swimming is safe for you, especially if you experience any side effects.
- Medication can also cause dehydration and this can be exacerbated when swimming, remember that you continue to sweat and lose fluids when you are in water.