A student’s journey destressing through swimming

Rachael Jaeger
Staff Writer

For someone like me who wrestles with anxiety on a moment to moment basis, it is tough to let myself go and relax. No matter how many calming techniques I practice, but nothing clicked until I started swimming again. 

Over three years ago, I attended a day conference my spiritual coach, Rob Bell, was speaking at in Minneapolis about his book release “How to Be Here”. 

An opportunity presented itself to personally ask him how he fell in love with surfing and how somebody could determine what would give them a break from what they believe their calling to be. He told me I needed to figure it out myself, despite I pressed him once. 

At first, I thought was somewhat curt, but now I see that it was the most helpful advice. My initial answer is writing, but lately I have discovered that it stimulates anxiety at times since it is something I am passionate about. I often think of writing as an end goal, whether it is a class assignment, an article like this, or a project I have worked on for years and am trying to publish. 

Sometimes I go kayaking with my dad whenever I visit my parents, but since he runs his own business, he is like me and doesn’t always know when to stop and take time for himself. He also owns a truck in which he loaded kayaks, and we would drive down to a river or lake nearby and lose ourselves in nature in observing the water ripple from fishes or other animals we would meet while on the water. But that only happens twice a year at most, so I needed to find something I could do on my own.

I had hoped I would have moved out west in Arizona by now and had climbed mountains mostly because it is a metaphor for conquering personal challenges. 

My older brothers had also introduced me strenuous activity and it does certainly push your boundaries, depending on how steep and high the mountain is in relation to your physical endurance.

I have also learned that when you’re stressing out as you exercise, it isn’t the most helpful to you or your body. Instead of losing weight if that’s your goal, it can stress you out more than what the exercise is worth. Although I have gained some weight, I have strived to change my mind about thinking about nearly everything in life as a goal.

As I was about to give up, I went on our Jaeger family vacation in Siesta Keys in June, the revelation struck me of how much I miss water. I swam in pools in hotels where we stayed, something I hadn’t done when we moved from the lake we lived on in Iowa when I was twelve.  

I do believe there is something mystical about water. Maybe it relates to my own personal faith which is another topic. Lately, I have taken advantage of the Otto Recreation Center after my philosophy class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and I try to at least go twice a week. It hasn’t taken me long to lose myself in the water as I practice a simple back or butterfly stroke or allow myself to float on my back while I kick as hard as I can. 

Whether I exercise or take it slower when I float, I feel my muscles lose their tension and the longer I swim, the more I feel at once with the water. If not all day, I experience peace for at least an hour and my mind also relaxes. 

If it’s not swimming, I do believe it is crucial for every person to have something that takes their mind off their life for brief time. But if you are seeking physical activities, the Otto Recreation Center has a list of upcoming classes you can choose from with no obligations of sign-ups. If I see a swimming class posted, I may take advantage of that.

Header photo courtesy of Flickr.

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