Have you ever asked yourself: “What just happened?” when a situation deteriorates or a conversation doesn’t go the way you thought it was going to go? Do you ever find yourself in a scenario thinking, “How did I end up here?” which – depending on the situation – can be a grateful realisation of being in a good place, or a regretful acknowledgement as to where a choice has brought you?

Last September, tomato grower Matt Foley sat on a panel I chaired at the Agricultural Science Association conference (ASA). Chatting afterwards, he spoke in glowing terms about his sea swimming group.

To find out why this group meets every day to swim, despite freezing temperatures, is how I found myself (happily) on a beach in Rush, north Co Dublin in early December for this week’s cover feature. There were plenty of answers to my question as to “why” but the one that stuck with me was it being a way to “get out of your head”.

Amii McKeever and Justin Lynch travelled to Rush north Co Dublin to find out why a group of people every day, despite freezing temperatures, swim in the cold sea.

Our brain is an amazing thing, makes us what we are – human. But that can be a happy human or a human in pain. Our mental health column with Enda Murphy speaks to this point, the continuous dialogue in our “washing machine heads”. When under stress, our emotional brain takes over which can bring about negative consequences. When recounting an article from Enda to others, I often say “my psychotherapist told me...” and then I clarify my comment instantaneously with “I mean Enda, the psychotherapist that writes for the paper, not my psychotherapist” as if I needed to condition it. I don’t, and no one should have to as talking about our mental health should not be a taboo topic.

Sea swimming in Rush. \ Claire Nash

Many of the articles in this week’s paper have an inadvertent comment or reference to mental health. Janine highlights how a clean house provides a peaceful reprieve from her anxiety following her interview with the “Queen of Clean” Lynsey Crombie. Anne spoke with Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, the founder of Focus Ireland, who advised that “unless you discover the peace within I think it’s hard to find peace in life”. Sr Stan continued that “we are all confronted with ups and downs in our daily life and I think unless we’re able to dip into the deep pool within us, life can become really hard and not have meaning”.

Everyone destresses in their own way and I realised reading the spa reviews on P12 that I differ demonstrably in this from Ciara and Janine. Meditation and yoga may help some switch off, but not me. I find myself looking at the ceiling and my brain starts to churn and think of what I have not done. What’s in the fridge for kids’ lunches? What was my deadline for that article? Did I turn off the gas? Not exactly relaxing. The best part of a spa for me is the water, it has to have some type of thermal area. Not exactly the pool Sr Stan is talking about, but whatever works.

Katherine is talking about resolutions. As for my own, when I mentioned to Enda that I recognised myself in his article, he suggested a call about my “washing machine head”. So I am going to take up that offer. Second, on advisement by the Rush gang to “start in summer” I will put sea swimming with Matt on a (small) long finger and find a decent thermal spa in the interim for my water fix. Happy new year.

Read more

Recognition of history is important as is recognition of current happenings

‘It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take’