Fear of Deep Water and How to Conquer It!

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It’s not uncommon to have hesitations or even a phobia of deep water. Not being able to see the bottom can throw even the most experienced snorkelers. Every time one jumps in the open blue water to try and swim with a pod of dolphins or whale sharks, there is nothing but blue water below them. They have to make a slight adjustment to their mental state and just remind themselves that floating in the blue is no different from floating just above a reef. It is easier said than done, since phobias like this are irrational, and your typical pragmatism on land goes right out the window the moment you lose sight of the bottom. This fear doesn’t always have to control us, though. If we take the proper approach, involving both mental and physical preparation, we can hopefully find ourselves confident and comfortable snorkeling in deep water. Here are a few steps that have been found to be helpful.

Become Accustomed to the Environment

Learning about the ocean is a great first step in helping control your deep water phobia. Understanding what is actually going on below you as you snorkel can help curb any unwarranted fears by cultivating a positive state of mind about the ocean and deep water.

  1. Educate Yourself: Watch documentaries and read about marine life and ocean ecosystems. Knowledge is power, and understanding the underwater world can demystify the fear of the unknown.
  2. Visual Familiarity: Look at underwater photographs and videos. Familiarizing yourself with the beauty and tranquility of the deep can transform fear into fascination.

Slowly Introduce Yourself to the Environment

Rather than just plunge yourself into the open blue water, start by slowly introducing yourself to it by getting accustomed to shallow reefs and sandy bays first. If your phobia is quite strong, start at the shallow end of a pool and then work your way up to larger bodies of water. As you progress to deeper waters, you may want to use an inflatable snorkel vest, a life jacket, or even an additional flotation ring to give yourself an added layer of comfort. Also, don’t forget to do this with a snorkel buddy who’s already very comfortable in the water.

Understand and Accept the Irrationality

The fear of depth and swimming is quite difficult to overcome. Irrational and obsessive thoughts related to depth prevent a person from behaving adequately on the water.

  1. Acknowledge Your Fear: Accept that your fear is real but also understand that it is irrational. Recognizing this is the first step toward overcoming it.
  2. Rationalize: Break down your fear logically. Understand that the likelihood of something going wrong is minimal, especially when you’re well-prepared and with a buddy.

Formation of a Positive Image

Frequent thoughts about water, its beautiful surface, and revisiting landscapes with reservoirs and beaches should gradually create an internal positive attitude towards everything related to it—including a calm perception of depth.

  1. Visualize Success: Imagine yourself enjoying deep water experiences, feeling calm and in control. Visualization can significantly impact your mental state and readiness.
  2. Practice Positivity: Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations about your ability to handle deep water. Tell yourself, “I am safe and capable in deep water.”

Using Humor to Overcome Fear

Humor can be a powerful tool in reducing anxiety. The method of paradoxical intention can be effective: uttering contradictory formulations with humor and self-irony can help manage fear.

  1. Paradoxical Intention: When faced with a deep water situation, use humor to counteract fear. For example, if you’re on a boat over a deep reservoir, say to yourself, “I will fall together with the bus into this river, and there will be splashes as high as a 5-story building!” This can diffuse tension and make the situation less intimidating.
  2. Paradoxical Resolution: When directly in the water at depth, replace the frightening thought that the water will take you with a humorous twist. Say something like, “Depth, I will not absorb you!” Uttering such phrases can smooth panic reactions and make the experience more manageable.

Practical Exposure and Gradual Immersion

Exposure therapy is a well-known method for overcoming phobias. Gradual immersion into deep water scenarios can desensitize you to the fear.

  1. Start Small: Begin with short periods in shallow water and gradually increase the depth and duration as you become more comfortable.
  2. Consistent Practice: Regular exposure is key. The more frequently you engage with water, the more natural and less intimidating it will become.

Find Comfort in Companionship

Having a buddy who is comfortable in the water can provide immense support and reassurance.

  1. Buddy System: Always snorkel or swim with someone who is confident and can guide and support you in moments of anxiety.
  2. Shared Experiences: Sharing your fears and progress with your buddy can create a sense of camaraderie and reduce the feeling of isolation.

Engage in Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can help manage the physiological symptoms of anxiety.

  1. Breathing Exercises: Practice deep breathing techniques to calm your mind and body before and during your time in the water.
  2. Mindfulness and Meditation: Engage in mindfulness practices to stay present and focused, reducing the tendency to catastrophize.

Conquering the fear of deep water is a journey that requires patience, understanding, and consistent effort. By educating yourself about the ocean, gradually exposing yourself to deeper waters, using humor, and practicing relaxation techniques, you can overcome this fear and unlock a world of underwater adventures. Remember, it’s not about eliminating fear completely but learning to manage it effectively. With time and perseverance, you can float confidently in the open blue, embracing the beauty and serenity of the deep.

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