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Last month, open-water swimming teacher Anna Neubert-Wood, 41, took her oldest student into the Capital’s freezing waters for the first time.
Immersed in the North sea, the pair felt their age gap fade away as they shared an open dialogue about the mental health challenges both faced during lockdown.
Mrs Neubert-Wood said she left the water with a better understanding of what connects us as people, regardless of age.
“That is the beauty of ocean swimming,” said the swimming coach. “It forces you to tune into the moment and to be open with who you are and also who you are with.
“You can’t be distracted or worried about anything else when you are in the water, all you can do is focus on your breath and survival.”
Initially nervous about helping the older woman step into the ocean for the first time, Mrs Neubert-Wood said: “She was quite frail so I was a bit concerned about taking her in, I had to hold onto her very tightly and felt worried.
“But it turned out to be a beautiful experience getting to assist her, to know that by simply holding her hand I was making a difference.
“It also reminded me that one day my body won’t be able to support me as well as it does now and I must make the most of it.”
The swim was the first time Mrs Neubert-Wood had socialised with a stranger since lockdown and she said it helped her remember the importance of connecting with strangers, something so many people have lost during lockdown.
She said: “It was the first time I had held a stranger's hand since the pandemic started so it was a significant moment for me.”
While the two women swam together they spoke about the toll lockdown had taken on their mental health.
Mrs Neubert-Wood was surprised to hear the older woman talking about the anxiety she has battled with in recent months.
“She told me that her mind was always busy and that the additional time she was spending looking at a screen during lockdown was making her struggle more and more to live in the moment.
“What she said surprised me as I did not think struggling to live in the moment impacted the older generation so much. I always associated this problem with younger people.
“I had just assumed that the mental health issues that I have, about worrying about the future and not living in the present, would not be experienced by an older person.”
The experience taught the swimming teacher how important it is to be able to share fears and insecurities with others, regardless of age.
She said: “I learned that we all have our worries and vulnerabilities at all ages and stages in life and that we should talk about them together.”
Anna Neubert-Wood runs wild swimming classes. For more information CLICK HERE.
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