Scuba diving is one of the greatest adventures of your life, but it can quickly be ruined by dive anxiety. The good news is you can overcome dive anxiety with some simple techniques and get back in the water with confidence. We will be showing you how in this two-part series. Whether you are an anxious diver or an experienced SSI Pro helping other divers, we have some top tips for you.
Visualization is a technique used by athletes and professionals all over the world to achieve their goals and is one of the easiest ways to reduce dive anxiety. It involves using simple techniques that allow the mind to learn new skills by visualizing what success looks like. Your brain does not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, so use that to your advantage.
For dive anxiety, you would use visualization to teach your brain how to respond calmly to what it perceives as a threat – be that taking your dive mask off, breathing underwater or diving at depth.
Does taking your mask off underwater causes anxiety when you dive? To overcome that fear, you would visualize each step of your dive in your mind, including taking your mask off and putting it back on. All whilst remaining calm. The trick is to build the visualization up slowly, always ending it at a point before you start to feel stress. Over time and with practice, you will be able to get through the entire visualization whilst remaining calm. Your mind will have learnt there is nothing to fear and will no longer trigger a stress response when you take your mask off.
The best bit about visualization is you can do it from the comfort of your own home. Just find a quiet space, close your eyes closed and get started. You can also practice with your eyes open whilst doing something else you find relaxing.
We all need to practice our dive skills to stay sharp and it is also the next step to overcome dive anxiety. Skills practice is a great way to increase your dive confidence, learn to trust your abilities and build your muscle memory. All of which makes diving less stressful and more fun!
If your dive anxiety is related to a specific skill, make sure you practice that skill regularly to keep the old fear response at bay and build your confidence. You can do that easily in a pool with a dive buddy or instructor you trust. The body also learns muscle memory during skills practice, meaning it can perform dive skills automatically and safely if you start to panic during a dive and cannot think clearly.
It is also important to get diving and broaden your dive skills simply by doing different dives in different conditions, so your mind learns there is nothing to fear in different diving scenarios.
Controlled breathing is another great way to overcome dive anxiety and is an essential technique to have in your anxiety management toolkit. It works by preventing your mind from becoming anxious or panicking when it perceives a threat, such as when you do a specific dive skill that causes anxiety.
Controlled breathing keeps you safe when diving, helps you respond clearly in an emergency and helps you manage dive anxiety whenever you need to. There are numerous breathing techniques you can use, including square breathing, 7/11 breathing and belly breathing. Try a variety and see which one works for you.
Meditation is well-known for being a great way to train the mind to remain calm and can help you recognize and deal with anxiety before it gets out of control. Meditation has many benefits, including stress reduction, improved self-awareness, better concentration and improved relaxation. All of which is helpful when dealing with irrational fears and overcoming dive anxiety. With just 10 minutes of meditation a day, you will soon see the difference it makes to your wellbeing.
There are a variety of foods you can eat that help reduce anxiety and stay healthy for your dive adventures. They also happen to make great dive snacks for your surface intervals.
Add some of those foods to your diet and you will be well on the way to anxiety-free dives.