• Helen McGillivray

Chill to Brill - what do you do to connect with your values?

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

In this blog, Helen tells us about her personal experience of taking the plunge every morning into the sea and how she stays true to her values.


Living my life in clear sight of my values matters to me.

Life sure as hell is uncertain and often challenging, but I try and live more from my heart and less from my head. Accepting that in order to be adventurous, strong, courageous and bold in my actions means that unpleasant experiences may arise. Connecting with the world around me serves as a reminder that I am part of something way bigger than my own experiences and keeps me on track (some of the time). Moving from Edinburgh to a remote village in the Scottish Highlands - in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic was a challenge. Life is on hold. Without any effort, a group of likeminded fierce and fabulous women met at a local early morning yoga class (before the second lockdown), and magic happened. Every morning for the past few months, when the alarm goes off, despite it being frezing cold outside, I get up, pull on some warm clothes, and make my way down through the village and the woods to the secluded white shore. While cautiously undressing, the freezing wind chill brings to mind some familiar thoughts “what the hell are you doing, you could have stayed in bed, you have a busy day ahead” but knowing what's ahead I keep going. I put first one foot, then the other into freezing cold water. The urge to just walk back out is ever present. Who in their right mind would do this? The icy cold sea water shocks my body and the thoughts shout "you don't need to do this" and I want to stop. But I take a nice slow breath in, look ahead at the beautiful pink sky, the snow on the hills or the morning fishing boats heading out to sea for their daily catch. I breathe a longer, more mindful breath, tell myself "you've got this" and slowly glide in. I'm connecting with something much bigger than my own experience - an entire ecosystem. It's something to nurture, and it feels exhilarating. A pleasant tingling sensation surrounds my body, accompanied by a real sense of pride, for willingly putting myself in the North Sea. On the more challenging day,s I discovered that singing 80s pop classics helps. I stay in just until my neoprene gloved hands begin to feel that "funny" way - sometimes not very long at all. As I leave the water, my whole body is lobster-red - this must be good for the circulation, I tell myself. I notice I am smiling and it feels brilliant. After a dip I'm ready to take on the day and the challenges ahead, feeling proud of myself for showing up. Even on the most bitterly cold days I have NEVER regretted a swim but, I have and do sometimes regret pressing snooze on my alarm. These cold plunges into the sea illustrate that there are actions we can take towards being the person we want to be. If my anxious mind had its way, I would of course have more comfortable and less challenging mornings BUT I would never have these exhilarating experiences. It's actions and not thoughts that define who we are. In order to feel BRILL just go ahead feel the chill......


About Helen

Helen McGillivray is a psychological therapist with over 28 years of clinical experience, including 14 years providing psychological therapies. She specialises in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Helen is accredited with the BACBP, the leading organisation for cognitive and behavioural therapies in the UK.



25 views0 comments