How to Deal with Anxiety: 3 Lessons I Learnt from Scuba Masters

Last month, I took a trip up to Edmonton to take my first Scuba course from my friend Kirby, a very experienced Master Diver Instructor with over 1000 career dives.  

This is all in preparation for my open water diver certification in March in the Bahamas and my training week with Agatsu in Iceland, where I'll be able to dive between two tectonic plates! 

 
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The experience of being underwater forces you to deal with problems while stuck underwater--teaching useful lessons in managing anxiety and panic

 

 

Here are some lessons learnt from scuba that I felt could also apply when dealing with the anxieties faced during cigarette cravings when trying to quit smoking

1) The first time you suck in water by accident, don't panic.  Assess, gather your bearings, and control your breathing

One of the first exercises you undergo in the beginner's diver course is taking off your mask, grabbing it, placing it back on your face, and clearing the water out--ALL WHILE UNDERWATER. 

I wore contact lenses, so my eyes were closed.  

The moment that mask came off--my immediate reaction was to start breathing through my nose.

GASP! HACK HACK HACK!  

I'm starting to choke on a little water, starting to panic, and I'm scrambling to put on my mask.  

I manage to clear my mask, but now my anxious mind is telling me to surface--to give up and admit this is not for me. 

One of the Master Divers swims towards me, places a comforting yet sturdy hand on my shoulder, and signals me to stay underwater.

I'm thinking "holy crap dude, are you crazy!?! I'm choking, ahhhhh!" but then I recognise his hand signals to "control my breathing, assess". 

My mind obeys and my lungs follow.  

I lengthen my inhales and my exhales through the mouthpiece.  

Moments later, my pounding heart starts to slow down.

HOLY CRAP--I'm sticking with this, I can do this!

I didn't have any problems afterwards for the rest of the weekend.



APPLYING IT BACK TO QUITTING SMOKING:

When the anxiety of your cigarette cravings hit you hard--realise your body is feeling the discomfort WORSE than it actually is.  

Assess the situation
 (i.e. Are you going to die if you do not smoke?)

If the answer is no, then take a step back, put the cigarette down.  

Breathe calmly, pull out your backup list of activities to do and distract yourself from your craving because:

YOU ARE ALWAYS IN CONTROL OF HOW YOU RESPOND TO YOUR CRAVINGS

 

 

2) You can anticipate alot of the "Shit-hitting-the-fan" anxiety-causing moments far in advance

The pressure gauge used during Scuba measures how much air you have left in your oxygen tank.  

Kirby would always stress "how much air is left?" to prompt us to check this tool.

The reason?

If you are aware of your oxygen supply ahead of time, then you can take action if you need to head back earlier or make an emergency stop. 

We had the opportunity underwater to see what shutting off our tanks felt like to simulate what being out of air would feel like.  

HELPLESS and TRAPPED

If you were caught off guard with no more oxygen in tank, in the middle of the ocean, how anxious would you be?  How many options would be available?

Don't end up dying in the deep water having left things past the point of no return.



APPLYING IT BACK TO QUITTING SMOKING:  

If you can see the problem situations (i.e. triggers, stress) that you know will get you craving for a cigarette, then take action to avoid or prevent the problem from getting big enough to cause you to cave in and smoke.  

Example: If you are going out to the bar with friends and you are seeing them going out to smoke, then choose not to follow and join them. 


 

3) Do your homework and prepare--it isn't fun, but do it so you don't get caught off-guard and so you can remain calm in any situation.

The PADI Open Water Diver Manual isn't something you can just read casually and I'm glad I took it seriously.

WHY?

There's just so many things happening, even during the enclosed water dive and so much material to cover, that it can be really distracting to keep things organised and focused to get the most out of the experience.

I made sure that I prioritised doing the readings and tests in preparation for the course during the days leading up.  

Sure it would have been more fun to go out on that date and also go watch a movie with my friend, but I understand that it takes time to put in some solid hours to study and prepare.

As a result, I picked up alot of the skills quicker with less struggle and passed the exams that weekend without much hassle. 


APPLYING IT BACK TO QUITTING SMOKING:

The time before you are actually quitting smoking is the crucial grind time to work and reflect on what your triggers are, how much you smoke, etc.

If you have formed a strong vision of what you want your tobacco-free life to looks like, you have a clear roadmap to take steps to move forward and steer clear from distractions that tempt you to smoke again.
 
 

 

If you liked what you read and are feeling stuck figuring out how to quit smoking, download our FREE QuitFix & Video Series to help you get started. 

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