As a firefighter, some shifts are really tough. Sometimes the job is not just physically challenging but takes a mental toll as well. And at the end of one of those sets there is a need to bring things back down to normal before going home, one of my worst fears was always about bringing that mental grime back to my family environment.
One of the things I always used to do was take the longer drive home along the coast, even just being able to see the ocean gave me the calmness I needed to wind down.
After one particularly bad night shift I knew I couldn’t go home yet, so I went straight to the beach, got into my wetsuit and slowly paddled out into the surf. The sound of the water, movement of the surf, and the morning light as I pushed through the water was just so amazing. It was like the sea was saying; take your time, breathe, and share my energy.
For all of us (not just those working in emergency response) life is stressful and sometimes you don’t even realize that it is building up. It’s really hard to get rid of or even just bring down to a manageable level.
We are never really “stress free” so it’s all about getting the stress and pressure down to a manageable level so it doesn’t negatively affect you or those around you, especially family.
The mental peace we get from the ocean doesn’t need to be a full-on water immersion, sometimes just a walk along the beach, dipping your feet into the edge, or sitting and staring at the waves will make all the difference. When my wife was going through her year of cancer she would get me to drive her to the beach so that she could just stand in the water and stare out to sea – she said it gave her the strength to keep going.
The ocean feeds the mind and the spirit. For a lot of people as we think about coming out of national lock down, many are craving that connection with the ocean that gives them the mental space to cope with the stress in their lives.
I think that this lockdown has brought an awareness of this dependency on the sea for our mental health, and that we need to look after this relationship.
More and more people are now enjoying the sea on this therapeutic level, it’s not just about feeding our bellies but also our minds and spirit.
The simple take home message: we all need the ocean, so much more now than ever, for our mental wellbeing. Just one more reason to cherish our greatest gift.