Learning to Scuba Dive – Conquering Fear
We all have to conquer fear at some point in our lives. Fear can be a good thing, making us think twice can save our lives, but if taken too seriously it can mean we don’t finish what we start or worse, just do nothing.
Scuba diving is somewhat of an extreme sport… after all you are trying to learn how to exist in an environment that the human body is not designed for. Learning to scuba dive can definitely be challenging. You can’t just throw the gear on and swim away into the nice as that sounds. There’s some technical equipment to work out how to use, which can be bulky and cumbersome; but there’s also the fact you have to get used to being underwater for much longer than you’re used to. Some people find it easy but if you’re one of those people who struggle don’t stress, you’ll get there if you persevere.
I believe that everyone who has ever dived has had moments where they’ve been scared and if they say they haven’t they either don’t dive very often or they’re lying! For some people this happens during the course but even after 500 dives there is still the potential for something to throw you a curve ball.
For me there are two important steps to learning how to get your fear under control.
1. Breathe. While the golden rule of diving is never, ever hold your breath, the other golden rule to overcoming fear and stop it turning into something uncontrollable is using your breath to calm yourself down. When you start to become scared, you’ll begin to hyperventilate – controlling the rate of your breathing does a couple of things. Firstly it will slow you’re heart rate down and start making you feel calmer. Secondly, it gives you something else to focus on and distraction is a good thing.
2. Stop thinking. While this may sound weird, it’s also the best way to help get over whatever you’re scared of. Starting thinking about the theme music from Jaws and invariably you won’t be able to get it out of your head and sharks will be lurking behind every corner; start thinking about how difficult it is to breath using a regulator and invariably it will become harder and harder; start thinking that you can’t clear water out of your mask without coming to the surface and all of a sudden you won’t be able to.
It also must be said that scuba diving is not for everyone. You might just be someone who will never be comfortable underwater and it’s important to be able to realise the difference between fear of something new and this sport just isn’t right for you. Don’t underestimate the importance of the instructor either. If the two of you don’t click, or the instructor can’t spend the time to make you feel comfortable, then it might be worth trying someone else before you throw in the towel.
As a diving instructor, one of the things I’ve observed is that those students who struggle the most but persevere the longest will invariably finish the course as better divers. This will also only help your diving further down the track as you’ll know how to better handle fear and stress when you find yourself in a situation you might not have encountered before.
So breathe, don’t think too much and persevere, you’ll be a certified scuba diver before you know it.