a woman sat on a rock with waterfall falling down on her.
Image credit: Sarah Goldsborough

‘Cold water therapy saved my life’

The story of how Instagram star Geordie Ice Woman took up a 1000-day dipping challenge

Trigger warning: mentions of pregnancy loss and mental health struggles 

Sarah Louise Goldsborough is not your average 37-year-old mum. She has been cold-water dipping for over 760 days and has no plans to stop anytime soon, having challenged herself to practise cold-water therapy for 1000 days.

Known to her 3,000+ followers on Instagram as the Geordie Ice Woman Sarah started cold-water swimming after her mental health dipped drastically following two miscarriages. “I really started questioning myself, it was almost like how is that happening again, why me?” said the mum of four.

These feelings made her frightened for herself, causing her anxiety to spiral to the point where she wasn’t sleeping and was experiencing multiple panic attacks a day. “I remember having all these intrusive thoughts, I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. I needed something ASAP to help me survive, even if it was just to survive another day,” said Sarah.

After coming across an article stating the benefits of cold swimming, the Newcastle-native knew she had to try it and was at the beach within half an hour of discovering it. Her first plunge was transformational, and she instantly became hooked. “It was that feeling of relief, it was almost like the water was giving my head that breathing space it needed,” she explained. After that first dip, Sarah set herself the target of going every day for 30 days. Now she is on day 760 and is not stopping until she gets to 1000.

It’s why I’m still living and breathing and raising the girls

Healing journeys are not linear, and they take time with many ups and downs. While getting out of the anxious mindset her miscarriages caused her, Sarah experienced further trauma such as losing her job, a house flood, and the deaths of her great nana, and the father of her older daughters in a short space of time. “The cold-water therapy gave me the mental toughness that I needed to get through each day and every traumatic experience.”

Sarah credits the cold water for saving her life, saying it is what’s kept her alive “It’s why I’m still living and breathing and raising the girls,” she says.

Homage to the water that healed

Having started her cold water journey on 6 February 2022, Sarah is over two years in and loving every minute of it. Whenever she considers having a day off, she can’t resist the call of a cold plunge, saying “All I can think about is getting in the sea. If I didn’t do it, it would be like taking away my medication.”

Amazingly, Sarah even managed to practise cold-water therapy on the day she went into labour with the newest addition to her family, Ocean Aurora. Having gone for her usual morning plunge in her back garden pod and noticing it felt different, “I found myself being very reflective,” Sarah said. She went for a nap afterwards, and when she woke up, her labour had started and her youngest daughter was born that evening. 

She even had a cold shower in the hospital the next day to ensure her plunging streak was not broken.

Having originally had a target of 30 days, this was extended to account for the fact that healing is not a quick process, and the cold water was helping considerably.

Throughout the process, Sarah has met many other fans of cold-water therapy and formed friendships within the community often going for dips with them. She even hosted a celebration to mark two years of dipping.

The cold water has become such a huge part of Sarah’s life, with her baby daughter being named Ocean to pay homage to the practice that helped her come out the other side of her mental health battle. “She walked that journey with me… it made so much sense.” She even attributes her quick postpartum recovery to cold-water therapy, saying that, unlike with her previous pregnancies she did not experience any postnatal depression.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls… or maybe do

“My favourite spot for cold-water dips are actually waterfalls,” says Sarah, describing it as the most magical and therapeutic experience ever.

The avid dipper is also a fan of sunrise swims, sometimes even getting to the beach at 4 am to watch the sun come out. The change in colours as well as the cold water sets Sarah up for her day perfectly, saying she couldn’t imagine a better way to start a day.

Reach out for help

  • If you are experiencing any mental health concerns, websites such as Mind and emergency helplines such as The Samaritans (phone 116 123) are here to help.