With Mental Health Week starting on May 15 , there’s no better time to focus in on our mental health and wellbeing. The theme for this year is anxiety. A growing concern for many, it’s now thought that over 8 million people in the UK are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time, according to Mental Health UK. In our latest blog post, we hear from Sarah Parris @sarahssupjourney on the topic of sports and mental health, and specifically, some of the mental health benefits of paddleboarding.
I started my paddle journey back in 2017 and instantly fell for it after trying it with a friend. I quickly bought my own paddle board and started going out more often until 2018 when I became pregnant. Soon my visits out came to a stop and later, due to having a small child, it was difficult for me to make time for my visits on the water. This meant I had to watch from the river banks or beach instead.
Missing out on what I enjoyed, I found I became a stay-at-home mum used to her own company. A year later, another baby came along and so did Covid – which did not help my mental wellbeing. Like many others, my anxieties became quite a concern. I didn’t want to go out and I distanced myself from families and friends, even when we were allowed to meet up again.
After quite some time with no contact to many people apart from those for work, a friend of mine who had continued her paddling journey throughout this time reached out to me to try to get me ‘back on board’ so to speak; and get me the space I needed.
I was very reluctant to do so but tried it anyway. Once more I fell in love all over again with the head clearance and the enjoyment if gave me whilst on the water. Again my friend tried getting me more involved with other groups on the water and we gave ourselves little mini-targets to ease me back in. This did help, but I was still reluctant to mix with people due to anxieties about being around others.
After seeking help from my doctor and other health professionals, they encouraged me to try individual and group therapy to confront my anxieties. As much as these sessions did help, they didn’t make me feel any happier and I was struggling to get through the day looking after two young children. A health professional helped me discover that my heart was by the water, so they encouraged me to give it another go, although to make it more regular this time with a new group of people. This was clearly where I could let go of the clutter in my head and the noise going on in my life.
So I decided to start attending a group of like-minded people that meet up weekly to just paddle and chat. This group was great for company when you were feeling you needed encouragement, but also great for just paddling and not having to talk if you didn’t want to. Paddleboarding just filled me with happy thoughts and distracted me from all my other worries I faced in daily life.
I now appreciate my time on the water much more and have started to appreciate the surroundings and the environment around me. I think we have all been guilty of walking or driving along and not taking any notice of the wildlife around or even the flora and fauna, but being on the water opens your eyes to so much more.
Since the end of last summer and into this winter period, I have been on the water more often than ever and been on many visits away from my local area. I have even attended a whitewater paddling board session and open water course on the sea, which has helped my awareness and I now look forward to a summer out on the water once again. As my partner says, happy wife, happy life!
Thanks to Sarah for sharing her story with us. Please check Mental Health America for resources if you are struggling with your mental wellbeing.