A naturist couple believe they have uncovered the perfect cure for pandemic stress - jumping in muddy puddles in their local woods while completely naked.
Chris Hood, 43, a retail worker from Grimsby, and his photographer fiancée Ginny Jones, 41, a fellow nudist, say letting it all hang out has been the “best antidote ever” to anxiety brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The feeling of getting mud between my toes was just escapism and a complete relief,” Hood explains.
Hood, who lives with Jones, her son Ruben, six, and their daughter Violet, two, says his stress levels started rising last summer when restrictions were eased and more people began visiting the shop where he worked.
Feeling increasingly nervous about being in the crowded environment, Hood started experiencing mood swings and panic attacks.
But he came across a solution to his stress: spending a day off in November getting naked in a forest and jumping in a puddle of mud.
Jones, who, with Hood, has just launched a new business, Ginny’s Photography, snapped photos of her partner’s unique form of therapy.
“For me, it was coming out of lockdown when it [my anxiety] got really bad,” says Hood.
“After being in lockdown and not seeing anyone, to go into a really busy workplace where I had to wear a full-face visor and mask was a shock.
“I’d got used to putting up all these barriers between myself and other people.
“Then, suddenly, I was surrounded by people all the time and the anxiety really hit home.
“Mood swings and anxiety are not something I’ve ever struggled with before, so it was awful.”
Knowing how much naturist weekends had helped him to feel alive in the past, one day last November when the couple had headed to a local wood for a walk, Hood decided to strip off after realising they were alone.
“We found some really nice woods and it was a spur of the moment thing, realising I could pose naked in the mud,” Hood explains.
Despite the freezing weather, being spontaneous gave Hood a real buzz.
“I just threw everything off, ran and jumped,” he said.
“It was total freedom and a huge adrenaline rush. I was not thinking about anything else.”
Hood says the experience gave him the opportunity to clear his head from worries about the pandemic.
“For that moment, we were in the woods having a laugh, just the two of us.
“It was about completely getting away from everything and clearing our heads.”
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While Jones is normally up for getting back to nature, this time, she kept her own clothes firmly on.
“It was so nice to see him enjoying himself again, after he’d had a couple of panic attacks,” she explains.
“It was amazing to see him let go of everything – he’d just gone back to being a kid and enjoying himself.”
Naturism has always been a tonic for Hood, who first stripped off on family holidays as a teenager in the Canary Islands, in Spain.
“Initially, it was just on holidays in the sun, on the beach or in the sea,” he explains.
But, as Hood grew older, he found nudity a great confidence booster.
“I’d always been on the small side and was bullied at school, which gave me a sense of not being good enough,” he said.
“Naturism gave me confidence, as once you’ve got your clothes off there’s no status, there’s no difference.
“Everyone is the same and it’s very equalising.”
After getting together with Jones in 2016, Hood told her he was interested in naturism.
Though initially sceptical, after doing some research Jones took the plunge and booked a couples’ night at a naturism event at a Yorkshire spa.
“I didn’t tell Chris about it until it was booked and paid for so I couldn’t chicken out,” she explains.
“On the drive there I was absolutely petrified and didn’t know if I could go through with it.”
But she soon found herself happily sharing changing rooms, a sauna and spa and even enjoying drinks with other couples, completely naked.
“To them, it was second nature and they didn’t give it a thought,” she says.
“We went to the sauna and jacuzzi and spoke to some people who knew it was my first time there. It was a really good night.”
After that, naturism became a shared interest and the couple found naked beaches on holiday, as well as taking part in nude swims in the UK.
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Jones, who also struggled with confidence, says the naturist community taught her acceptance.
“I always had issues at school, as I was bigger and was bullied for my size,” she explains.
“But once you take your clothes off everybody’s the same.
“We’ve all got the same bits and pieces. We’re just different sizes and shapes.
“Nobody’s staring, nobody’s pointing and nobody’s laughing, everyone’s just equal,” she adds.
Since lockdown, Jones has also found confidence through dance-based exercise classes, Burlexercise, which incorporates burlesque style dance moves with exercise routines, and has completed her own naked photoshoot.
She is now promoting a ‘positive portraits’ package to help other people embrace their bodies.
“It’s about learning to love the skin you’re in,” Jones explains.
“We both love naturism, it’s not sexual, it’s just liberating,” she adds. “And Chris’ naked shoot in the mud was a fabulous tonic at a very difficult time.”
Additional reporting PA Real Life.