How to stay calm while scuba diving
Learning to scuba dive should be fun, but for many, going underwater can create anxiety. The joy and fun of this great hobby and sport can be spoilt for some before it even begins. But what helps with anxiety during scuba diving?
What helps with anxiety during scuba diving includes preventative measures like finding the right scuba instructor to begin with and finding easy shallow dives to build your experience and hone your skills. To avoid anxiety when you dive you should take things slowly and at your pace. But also, never be afraid to say no to the dive.
What helps with anxiety during scuba diving?
What can you do to reduce the stress and anxiety both before and during a dive? Let's take a look at a few solutions of what can help prevent anxiety.
- Find the right scuba instructor at the outset.
- Find easy dives to slowly build your skill levels and experience.
- Take it slow.
- Always dive within your skill level.
- Perfect and practice your underwater skills.
- Be honest with your dive buddy and dive master.
- Distract yourself underwater.
Let's take a look at each of these in a bit more detail.
1. Find the right scuba instructor at the outset
If you're a bit anxious about scuba diving, but also want to learn in any case, finding the right scuba instructor is so important. I've come across those who had a great instructor to teach them to dive. But I've also come across those who had the nightmare instructor as well.
The right scuba instructor is about you feeling comfortable with that person. It's about finding someone who will teach you safely.
A good scuba instructor will recognise your anxiety and will have patience and take everything at your pace. They won't rush you and if you struggle with any section of the learning, they'll take time until you grasp the skill. This is extremely important if you're feeling anxious about scuba diving.
When I instructed scuba divers at a BSAC club, I would always spend the time to make sure my students grasped each skill I taught. This was especially true of mask clearing.
Mask clearing of all the skills taught in scuba proved to be the most difficult for many. However, with a bit of patience and by taking it slowly, most, if not all, students grasped the concept in the end.
The other important factor to consider about having a great scuba diving instructor is if you've been taught well, then you are less likely have anxiety with scuba diving in the first place.
2. Find easy dives to slowly build your skill levels and experience
Once you've learned to scuba dive, but if you still feel anxious about diving, you should slowly build-up your confidence. This is best done by finding easy and shallow dives. Dive with a dive buddy that is experienced and competent and someone who you trust.
Make sure you dive with a dive buddy who will look after you and a person who understands your scuba anxiety. But more importantly, dive with someone who isn't going to push you, but instead will take everything at your pace.
Always remember that the deeper the dive, the more likely you're going to suffer from anxiety. The greater the depth of water that's above you on you on your dive, the more likely you're going to stress about it and suffer from anxiety.
So until you're comfortable diving in shallow water (when I say shallow, I mean sub 20 metres (66 feet)), do as many dives as you can until you are comfortable at that depth.
3. Take it slow
Taking things slowly is a progression of the previous point. This is particularly true if you're an anxious diver. I've always said to all my scuba students; build your experience slowly. There needn't be a rush and it's certainly not a race or competition. This would only exacerbate any anxiousness.
You will always get the macho man who has to go the deepest and take the next best scuba diving course. But why I ask? Scuba diving is for fun and it's about taking things slowly and being safe.
I've always maintained that beginner scuba divers should do a minimum of 20 dives before progressing to the next level of diving. This is especially true if you are slightly anxious.
Having said that about beginner scuba divers, experienced divers can also get anxious too. This can happen at depths of 30-plus metres (100+ feet) when nitrogen narcosis can kick in. This happened to me at 47 metres down and was scary I have to say.
4. Always dive within your skill level
As already mentioned, you should build your scuba experience slowly. The same goes for your skills. A slow progression will give you confidence in your abilities and will help to alleviate any anxiety.
You should also always dive within your skill level, which includes your maximum depth. For example, if you are a PADI Open Water Diver, or BSAC/NAUI equivalent, never dive beyond the prescribed 18-20 metres (60-66 feet) until you've taken the next diver certification level.
But at each certification level do plenty of diving in order to master your skills and to gain experience to keep you safe. But also, don't do a dive that requires a new skill until you've been taught the new skill. For example drift diving.
The first time you dive with your newly acquired skill, dive with a diver who is experienced in that skill.
Whilst a very mild drift dive isn't overly dangerous, you are best to take the necessary course to understand the safety aspects of a drift dive before you dive in a current.
More Reading: What is Drift Diving (+20 Drift Diving Tips)
5. Perfect and practice your underwater skills
Once you've learned a new skill, you should spend time practicing. One of the first important skills you'll learn is buoyancy control. Many newbie scuba divers get quite anxious about their buoyancy control.
Achieving buoyancy control is important for many things when scuba diving. Not least for protecting coral reefs. You use your buoyancy to keep a safe distance from the reef, instead of bumping into it and destroying the reef.
More Reading: How To Achieve Neutral Buoyancy Scuba Diving (Made Easy)
But as you gain more experience, you'll be able to dive where the sea bed is deeper than the depth of your dive. For example, there are many great dives on pinnacles that rise up from the ocean depths. These pinnacle dives can be in waters depths in excess of 1,000 metres (3,281 feet) deep.
Don't sink to the sea bed by controlling your buoyancy!
What helps with anxiety during scuba diving with 1,000 metres below you would be to have already mastered your buoyancy on dives where you're diving along the bottom in shallow depths.
Conserving your air to extend your dives
Another key reason to master your buoyancy control is to help you conserve your air when diving. Master your buoyancy control and you will conserve your air. But by gaining confidence when diving (and buoyancy control is a big part of this) you'll breath less in any event.
If you're anxious whilst scuba diving, you'll be breathing more heavily. Reduce your anxiety levels, stay calm and enjoy your dive and you'll use less of your air, which means your dive times will be extended.
By practicing all your skills will give you more confidence. In turn this will help you with your anxiety when scuba diving and will help you to enjoy this wonderful sport even more.
6. Be honest with your dive buddy and dive master
To conquer your diving anxiety may take time. But it may also take you being honest with yourself too. But also to be honest with those who you are scuba diving alongside.
By letting your dive master or dive buddy know that you are suffering from a bit of anxiety will help them to understand your problem. This way, they can adapt how they dive and how they interact with you.
If I'm diving with anyone who's feeling anxious, I take things much more slowly, be it the descent, the dive itself or whatever is going on. I always pay that little but more attention to anyone who I know is anxious, thereby helping to comfort them on the dive if they need it.
It's okay to cancel a dive
Always keep in mind one of the golden rules of scuba diving safety, it’s always okay to cancel a dive if you're not feeling it for whatever reason. Safety comes first; always!
If you’re uncomfortable about any aspect of the dive, be it the depth, how you're feeling or if something just doesn’t feel right, there's always another day when you can dive. It's better to be safe than sorry.
7. Distract yourself underwater
I mentioned above that I suffered from an anxiety or panic attack underwater at 47 metres down. This was pretty scary at the time and a 47 metre ascent whilst hyperventilating is a long way up and takes a long time. I worried that I was going to run out of air, among other things. Although the fog cleared at about 25 metres (82 feet).
This dive affected me for quite some time afterwards. The fact that this happened, I put it down to my mindset at the time. My wife had just left me and my life had been torn apart. This didn't help with my mindset when nitrogen narcosis kicked in! Although at the time I wasn't aware that it would affect me in this way. It was only when I reached the bottom, which was 47 metres underwater, that I began to panic!
So anxiety when you're scuba diving may not just be about the dive itself. If you're feeling anxious, take a look at what's going on in your life at the time too.
Change your mindset
Any way, the reason for mentioning this event is not as a sob story, but to explain how I had to change my mindset in order to enjoy diving once more. I found I'd get anxious before every dive, even if it was to just 20 metres (66 feet). Or if not before the dive, at some point during the dive.
I had to resolve my anxiety problem, and apart from seeking help (see below), when anxiety began to trouble me on a dive, I'd distract myself. If I found myself starting to feel anxious, I'd look for something. I'd go out of my way to further explore crevices and corals to distract my mind.
This worked and it meant that I enjoyed the dive, rather than spend the the whole dive worrying about equipment failure or the depth of water above me etc. By distracting my mind away from these anxious feelings, my breathing rate would slow down and my heart would stop racing too.
What may make you laugh is that if ever I was on a dive with sharks, my anxious feelings towards scuba diving completely disappeared. The sharks were my distraction! How bizarre is that, but then I love to scuba dive with sharks.
The above list is how you prevent anxiety happening, but how do you manage your anxiety? What steps can you take to improve your anxiety levels when you're away from diving?
How to manage anxiety scuba diving
The above strategies are preventative measures to help during your dive or when you're learning to scuba dive. But the following list includes solutions to help you to improve your anxiety levels even further.
These in turn will help you to enjoy scuba diving even more, so you can relax underwater.
- Accepting you have a problem.
- Use visualisation techniques or NLP.
- Positive self-talk.
- Subliminal messaging.
- Try the Panic Miracle.
Let's take a look at each of these in turn.
1. Accepting you have a problem
The first step to solving any problem and what helps with anxiety during scuba diving is to accept you have a problem in the first place. Without this first step, you can't do anything to make things better.
But then if you're reading this article, then I'm guessing you've already made this first step.
2. Use visualisation techniques or NLP
Visualisation techniques can be extremely powerful. You'll find that professional athletes and successful business people, among others, use visualisation techniques.
The technique is contained in Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP. Using this relatively simple technique, allows your mind to learn new skills and create positive imagery through the mind's eye.
Taking the example above about the difficulty or anxiousness towards mask clearing, you could use visualisation or NLP to overcome the fear of removing your scuba mask underwater.
To do this, you'd visualise each step whilst remaining calm and relaxed. You should then repeat the process many times over until your mind has learned how to calmly and fearlessly remove your mask. If it's not mask clearing for you, this technique will work with any form of anxiety.
One of the other big fears for people starting out to learn scuba diving is putting their head underwater in the first place. Somehow they feel claustrophobic with a mask over their face and having to breath 'on-demand' using a mouth piece or 'regulator'. Visualisation techniques can help with this fear too.
3. Positive self-talk
Positive self talk is similar to visualisation in that you are using self-help to overcome your fear or anxiety. You'll be using your inner voice to talk yourself through the anxiety.
If you feel anxious underwater, change your thoughts to something nice and calming. If you have children for example, think about them. Or in a similar way to how I explained about distracting yourself above, distract your mind away from the anxious thoughts.
Control plays a big part in anxiety, which means you should remind yourself that you are safe and in control of the situation. Focus on your surroundings and remind yourself of how amazing it is to be underwater and scuba diving!
4. Subliminal messaging
If you're looking for other positive solutions on what helps with anxiety during scuba diving, subliminal messaging is a method used to talk directly to the subconscious mind. It was once used in advertising until it was banned due to its power and success. If subliminal message can convince you to buy something, it can certainly help you to overcome a fear or anxiety towards scuba diving.
Statistical data back up the findings
"On an Experiment done by Radboud University's Department of Social Psychology (Netherlands), subjects where exposed to subliminal messages of a specific brand of beverage (Lipton Ice Tea) for 1/45 of a second during a series of tests on a computer. The statistics showed a dramatic increase of 69% in choosing the subliminally induced brand for the subjects exposed to the messages, over the control group (subjects not exposed)."(Karremans, Stoebe, Claus) - See Mindzoom for more information
Mindzoom is something I use on a daily basis, but then I'm at my computer screen a lot so it works well for me. How Mindzoom works is you install the Mindzoom software on your computer. This software places literally thousands of positive affirmations directly to your brain, by flashing them up on your screen subliminally.
Even as I write this article, I have the positive affirmations flashing on my screen. These messages are almost invisible to the conscious mind, but you know they are there. But in having these positive affirmations flash up on your computer screen embeds them in your subconscious mind.
"Over 18000 a day..."
"I work constantly on my computer, I've set my affirmation speed and receiving over 18000 affirmations a day. WOW!
I'm recommending mindzoom to everyone. Thanks again. This software is life changing!"Saul Hudson - on Mindzoom
The great thing about Mindzoom is its flexibility. You can tailor it to suit your own personal circumstances. Click this link to find out more and to get the up to date price on Mindzoom.
Doing meditation is a great way to relax and unwind. If you're an anxious person, it might be worthwhile looking into the benefits of meditation.
This should have an impact on your life as a whole in a positive way, but more importantly for scuba diving, it should also reduce your anxiety levels for diving too.
Meditation will also help you to focus on your breathing. As already discussed, one of the most powerful things you can do while scuba diving is to control your breathing. This is not only important for buoyancy control, but you can use it to stay calm too.
When you're diving and just like you would breath when in meditation, remind yourself to focus on your inhalations and exhalations underwater. When you're meditating you should breath slowly and intentionally, which is the same when you're diving too.
Hypnotherapy has been around for 100's of years and can be achieved either through seeking help from an expert hypnotherapist or by doing self-hypnosis. Both work and both can be used to help you with your fears and anxieties.
Hypnotherapy works by helping your mind and subconscious to learn new responses and behaviors to situations that previously caused an irrational fear response.
If you don't have the time nor money to seek the help of a professional hypnotherapist near you, you may wish to take a look at the various hypnosis audios here: MP3 Hypnosis audios.
7. Try the Panic Miracle
If you want another solution for what helps with anxiety during scuba diving, the Panic Miracle is an option.
The Panic Miracle was created by a former severe anxiety sufferer. It will show you how to treat your panic attacks and anxiety and to help you regain your self confidence.
"I had a very troublesome anxiety disorder along with severe agoraphobia. I took seizure meds to prevent passing out.
He goes on to say:
I was really deep in an horrible, unbearable condition, and you have truly saved my life. I did not realize what was going on...but your program made me see that I was not the only one! It has now been 10 months since I first implemented your 3-step approach, and I haven't had a SINGLE panic bout since. The constant anxiety I suffered from for more than 8 years had simply disappeared. I go out of the house without fear whenever I please. The feeling is simply remarkable! Thank you so much, Chris, for everything you have done for me. "Mike Oversby- U.S.A testimony about the Panic Miracle
You may want to overcome your anxiety towards scuba diving to be able to join your partner who's already a scuba diver. To be able to enjoy this sport with your loved one would be great. But don't be pushed into it.
This great tool can be used to treat all types of anxiety, be it a fear of scuba diving or of water itself (Aquaphobia). Overcome your fears and anxiety of scuba diving so you can truly enjoy this fantastic sport.
I hope you enjoyed this article about what helps with anxiety during scuba diving
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Have fun and be safe!