• Petra Vandecasteele

How a skinny dip helps me to stay calm

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

Apart from our love for travel in the African wilderness, there is another, rather unusual, thing we currently have in common in the southern and northern hemispheres and that is how to keep our sanity during a lockdown.

On Monday afternoon, Cape Town was overflowing with stress, panic, and in a few cases even hysteria. I was staying at a friend's house in Camps Bay but hadn't slept well because of all the anxiety around me that day. Needless to say, I woke up with what felt like a massive hangover (but without the joys of a jolly party preceding it) and started fretting about the reality of not having an income as long as travel restrictions are in place.

"Come join me for a skinny dip in the pool," my friend Kirsi said as she walked out of her room. The sun had just risen and it was still crisp outside. Kirsi is Finnish and always starts her day with an invigorating dip in the pool or the ocean, rain or shine. Reluctantly, I followed her example and in less than 30 seconds my mood shifted completely from anxiety to sheer bliss! I stepped out of the fresh mountain water feeling like a reborn woman, taking in the scenery of Table Mountain on the one side and Camps Bay with the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

Kirsi's eco-pool filled with crystal-clear water from Table Mountain higher up

Instead of hurrying back to the house to get dressed and stress over some business issues in preparation for South Africa's imminent lockdown, I decided to let go off everything and enjoy a super relaxing breakfast with my friend instead. In our bath gowns, that is. Remarkably, all tension suddenly fell off my shoulders.

"I’m not taking part in this lockdown doom scenario," I told myself. "Stress negatively affects the immune system, so if I want to stay healthy I'd better stay away from it and focus on staying calm. I can’t change the situation, but I certainly can decide how I respond to it."

A little later, I met with my colleague Amber at the Cape Town office and was glad to find her not only totally relaxed, but in a highly creative mood too. We quickly realised that it would be completely pointless to attempt doing business while most people are freaking out, so I decided to give ourselves time off until the end of the week to have a break from the stress and enjoy quality time on the beach or on the mountain until lockdown starts and we are confined to our homes.

Today is the start of lockdown in South Africa and I still feel elated. In fact, I'm looking forward to the next 21 days of undisturbed peace. I can now stay in my pyjamas for as long as I want to and not give a hoot about what I look like cos nobody will be knocking on my door. The other day, I had a video call with a Belgian client who was already in lockdown. "Please excuse my looks," she grinned as she rubbed her eyes, "I just got out of bed and haven't even showered yet." We had a brilliant conversation.

So please, by all means, feel free to have a video call with me. No formalities required...

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Cape Town, South Africa

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