Team Watts

Adventures of the Watts Family
Anxiety Family General Musings

Overcoming Scuba Anxiety 1 Rational Thought At A Time

In Jamaica this past summer, some of us took a Discovery Scuba course at the resort.  It was a great introduction to the sport and Jason/Jalyn were hooked.  They took the opportunity to add-on to the discovery course and get certified as an Open Water Diver.  I wasn’t quite as sure, so I stuck with the 1 dive and watched them complete portions of the certification floating and swimming around them.  I enjoyed the dive, but cramming all that knowledge into my vacation, wasn’t for me.  At the time, Cole was in the same boat as me.  Jamaica was for relaxing.

After hearing stories and seeing pictures/videos (like the one below) of Jason/Jalyn’s adventures, Cole decided that he’d like to get certified.  That decision started a chain of events that included changing our Christmas trip to a diving trip.

Fast forward to the present:  Cole and I are in the process of getting our Open Water Diver certification. 

To say that I have some anxiety about the whole training and certification process would be a bit of an understatement.  Even though I’ve experienced a confined water dive, practiced some of the techniques (poorly clearing a flooded mask, etc), and dove in the ocean, completing the training has me on edge.

As with most anxiety, mine stems from the worst case scenario game my brain likes to play.

The What Ifs with scuba seem to be endless!

What if my mask comes off? (if you haven’t noticed, all things regarding a flooded mask are way up on my list of anxiety inducing scenarios)

What if my air runs out?

What if I get lost?

What if I can’t equalize my ears?

What if I something happens to the boys?

And on and on. Even typing this up has my heart rate elevated!

I know that to counter this type of anxiety, rational thinking is king.  I’ve been working through the process by questioning the concerns.

  • What is the chance that the worst possible outcome will occur?
  • Am I over exaggerating the situation?  What proof do I have for my fears?
  • Can I really handle this situation even though I doubt myself?
  • What can I do to adjust the situation?
  • What are the benefits of the situation?

When anxiety has me in its clutches, the questioning is hard because I tend to be defiant and choose to not recognize that chances are low or that I am over exaggerating.  Additional exercises, like describing a pen in detail, to pull my brain out of the emotion based reactions and back into rational thought is oftentimes necessary.  It also helps me to look at this outside of myself, as if I was encouraging a friend (or Cole) to try something out of their comfort zone.  What answers would I give them to help walk them through the process?

It might go something like this:

  • What is the chance that the worst possible outcome will occur?
    •  While there is risk, the training goes into detail about preventative measures and prudent/conservative diving practices.  If I make the most out of the training, make good habits, and be smart about things, the chance is low.
  • Am I over exaggerating the situation?  What proof do I have for my fears?
    •  Again, the risks are always there  and I could find horror stories if I looked for them, but in reality scuba is about as dangerous as driving a car (and I don’t even think about hopping in my car to go somewhere).  Experience and time make all the difference.
  • Can I really handle this situation even though I doubt myself?
    •   Yes.  I am a capable woman who can learn new skills and apply them.
  • What can I do to adjust the situation?
    • I will: 1. Go into the training with an attitude of excitement and adventure. 2.  Not be embarrassed or hesitant to ask for clarification, repetition, or more time. 3. Laugh and enjoy the experience with Cole.
  • What are the benefits of the situation?
    • Time spent with Cole, who is a bundle of nerves too, working through things as a team and coming out the other side more confident and with a win against something scary and outside our comfort zone.
    • Once I receive the certification, a whole new world is available to me to explore.  Reefs and wrecks, new vacation destinations, new ways to enjoy time with my boys, and the beauty of the underwater environment will all be mine for the taking.

True to form, typing this out has my heart rate approaching normal!

The PADI certification materials and courses seem to be extensive and well done.  Already, I’m able to at least talk through what to do in a variety of situations that could occur while underwater and on the surface.  They teach conservative, prudent diving to minimize risk.  That’s right in my wheelhouse!

Cole and I will be spending our weekend hanging out with the great folks at We B Divin’ learning all the scuba skills needed to boost those rational thoughts and keep anxiety levels at normal levels.  🙂

Here’s to new adventures (suck it anxiety)!



scuba don't panic



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