How Swimming Can Help Improve Mental Health (Or Ease Stress)

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How Swimming Can Help Improve Mental Health (Or Ease Stress)

Recently, the topic of mental health has started to come up more and more in discussions about sports. Adults and students alike want to raise awareness about mental-heatlth issues. They also want to offer solutions on how to deal with stressful situations.

The sport of swimming has a place in this discussion. While swimming can at times be stressful, as any activity can be, there are many health benefits to the sport that may go unnoticed. These benefits can help to alleviate some of the stress students athletes feel throughout the school year.

Why Is Mental Health Important?

It is a fact that many teens have a lot of activities to juggle. This demands includes schoolwork, sports, clubs, and any other outside organizations that student-athletes might be involved in.

Because of this heavy workload, it can be easy for teens to start having issues with anxiety or stress. The pressure to be perfect or to not make any mistakes falls heavy on their shoulders. Eventually, this pressure can transfer into sports and other activities. Skilled athletes become so focused on not making mistakes, that they can end up stressing themselves out too much.

“According to psychologists, that pressure mounts when an athlete’s motivation for playing goes from intrinsic rewards, like having fun with friends, to extrinsic rewards, like trophies or the approval of classmates,” Honah Liles wrote in the Boston Globe newspaper.

In order to be successful, athletes need to learn to put mistakes behind them. Move on. Focusing on the past will only worsen things in the long run.

This trick – forgetting about everything – seems easy now, but can be very difficult to put into practice. However, athletes should remember that failure is a part of sports. It’s okay to fail sometimes. All that matters is that it is possible to learn from mistakes. Learning from mistakes and training to improve upon them also helps to build confidence.

And that, truly, is why mental health is important. Because learning is important. And confidence is important. Someone who constantly worries about making mistakes will have low confidence and low self esteem. This is not good for an athlete. More, someone who does not learn from mistakes will find it difficult to improve at any activity.

Athletes must feel good about themselves in order to reach their full potential. So, they must first have good mental health.

How Can Swimming Help Mental Health?

“While nothing can take the place of professional care, swimming can be a valuable addition to your self-care routine. Swimming can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Even if you don’t suffer from a specific mental health concern, getting in the water can still improve your mood, reduce your stress, and help you unwind,” Lindi Osborne writes on the Swim Guide website.

Swimming is considered a low impact sport, so that means that it can be a good form of exercise for almost anyone. It doesn’t matter how old a person may be, the water stays the same no matter what. Pools are easy to access and can usually be found at a local gym or YMCA building. People who need to release energy or slowly work through an injury can find a place at the pool.

Colder water is said to help alleviate the pain of sore muscles or other injuries. Exercising can help some people feel better throughout the rest of the day – both physically and mentally. After all, in order to have good mental health, one must first have good physical health.

Another great thing about swimming is the fact that it is a great way to relieve tension in the body. In a swim practice, all that matters is the water. Each stroke can help athletes to forget about their other issues for a few hours and instead focus on the pool in front of them. This distraction can be extremely positive and can cause athletes to lose some pent-up energy. As a result, they may even sleep better at night.

My Struggle With Stress

Throughout the past six years, the one place where I’ve always found relief from my stress has been the pool. As a high school student and dedicated athlete, I know how easy it is to become overwhelmed by lots of activities at once. However, going to swim practice helps me to deal with that stress. In the pool, it is easy to forget about all of that and – as painful as it may be to wake up early – morning swim practices usually put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

My advice to those who feel anxious of stressed would be: Go to the pool. Just try it. And who knows? Perhaps it will become a huge help for somebody else, just as it was for me.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Rosemary Niebauer
7 months ago

So true! I probably need to swim. Helps your head and your aches! Great article!

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John
7 months ago

Now that ‘mental health’ is out of the genie’s bottle, it is used by everyone everywhere at the expense of real mental problems. If you cannot get your nails done or fly abroad for a suntan, that is not a mental health problem. If your life is not 100% deliriously happy every day, that is not a mental health problem. Nor is not knowing what to do with your time when you have quit swimming. ‘Psychologists’ need to find something to make them appear to be knowledgeable when waving their hands around pointlessly (most do!) and have accepted all this ‘mental health’ and ‘well-being’ nonsense in situations that are nothing more than being a recipient of bad luck.

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7 months ago

I enjoyed this article. Ms. Dunn is a great author and I especially enjoy how she writes. I believe that atheletes do have hectic schedules. And when they develop the self discipline to get up early in the morning to attend practice; they are training their mind to prioritize and organize the activities they have during the day. This sort of mental training is just as important as the physical training swimming gives to the swimmer.