Publish date: 7 December 2023

It's an activity that is becoming more and more popular with professional athletes and the general public. But taking a dip in cold water is becoming an increasingly popular therapy for people suffering with stress anxiety low mood and depression. Bracing yourself for an outdoor swim can really boost mental and physical health.

Joanne Lawson, Occupational Therapist for AWP: “A cold water dip can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, increasing the physiological feelings of stress and anxiety, then through conscious effort you bring your breathing under control, manage the stress response by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. If this skill is practiced and repeated you can start to re-wire the stress response and use the skills in all areas of your life.”

The cold water therapy workshop was led by Murph, a serving Royal Marine and qualified Wim Hof instructor. The activity was supported by a therapist and Occupational therapist within the Op Courage team. A group of five veterans completed a guided breathing exercise followed by two minutes in a natural waterfall.

Op COURAGE can help with common problems like anxiety, depression and substance misuse, as well as more advanced mental health conditions and psychological trauma. It can also help address other issues that may be affecting someone’s wellbeing, such as housing, finances and relationships.

Self-referral to the service can be made, or a family member, friend or GP can contact Op COURAGE on your behalf.