Photographer Anna Deacon finds both comfort and creativity in open water swimming
'I got into wild swimming as a bit of a dare – my cousin challenged me to get in the open water with her one day, and I loved it so much that I couldn't wait to do it again. So I joined a local club and started swimming at a tiny city beach ten minutes from my house in Edinburgh.
'A few years ago, I took on way too much work and completely burned out. This was when I started doing a lot more wild swimming – water is a great healer. It's helped me with my anxiety, but it's also provided pain relief from sciatica, which I struggle with. Getting into the cold water gives you a huge endorphin rush so that you feel invincible for the rest of the day.
'There are also studies showing that cold water can help with depression – it basically works by stimulating your parasympathetic system, shocking your body into fight or flight mode. So if you do it regularly, your body struggles to differentiate between types of stress and learns to deal with emotional stress just like it would physical stress from cold water. As a result, you learn how to calm yourself more effectively whatever the situation.
'I've met so many people through wild swimming, so I started taking photos of them and asking their reasons for coming to the water. I was completely blown away by their personal stories, from overcoming grief to managing mental health issues, dealing with divorce to disability rehabilitation. But the common thread was what a mood-booster it is – you can't not laugh when you're jumping around in the waves.
Taking the Plunge by Anna Deacon and Vicky Allan (Black & White Publishing, £20) is available now; @wildswimmingstories