“Having suffered from PTSD myself twice in the past, my personal experience has shown me that freediving can help, if not cure, at least better handle the symptoms.” This is Lily Crespy -a freediving instructor of Dahab Freedivers- describing her experience with post-traumatic stress disorder and how she managed it with freediving!
Freediving is known for relieving stress, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. There are freediving courses only for those wishing to relax and ease or overcome their stress and anxiety.
It is usually referred to anxiety as a sense of fearful expectation or anticipation or believing the worst is going to happen. It often has physiological signs -autonomic signs- and can have psychological and physical symptoms.
Anxiety ranges from overwhelming anxiety that causes a person to focus away from the task he handles, low-level anxiety that causes a diver to be more cautious, and over the anxiety that can cause cognitive and perceptual narrowing.
Go freediving to know how to overcome your anxiety or fears. Freediving teaches you how to use your breath and body to ease your anxiety and keep calm with your fears and stress. One of the benefits counted for freediving is that it helps in relieving anxiety and stress.
See this article to know other benefits of freediving.
Like yoga exercises, freediving strengthens mental health, as well as body awareness and control. Freediving also requires some relaxation and breathing techniques, so that the heart rate and oxygen consumption lower and you can freedive safely and enjoy more.
In addition, a comparative study shows that freediving athletes had reduced their levels of anxiety, stress, and negative affectivity when compared to non-athletes. It also shows that freediving boosts self-confidence, which means that they gain trust in their skills, learn how to deal with difficulties, and believe in having control over their own lives more efficiently.
There are techniques, psychological techniques, in particular, used for overcoming freediving anxiety. Those techniques are narrated as follows:
Medications are sometimes used for handling freediving anxiety and stress. Those medications include imipramine, propranolol, or alprazolam among others. However, these medications may not be recommended for they may cause drowsiness or make a freediver unaware of surroundings.
Nevertheless, freediving anxiety can be also handled through non-pharmacological techniques, i.e. psychological techniques. Some persons may have adverse reactions to medications, so psychological techniques are better for them.
Psychological techniques include systematic desensitization, implosion therapies, cognitive-behavioral techniques, and hypnosis. Freedivers should understand those mechanisms of anxiety to help them in understanding how they might work.
Systematic desensitization, according to behavioral learning theory, means a stimulus that invokes a response. Hence, a stimulus stands for getting into the water, which is the action that invokes a response, i.e. avoiding anxiety and stress.
If the stimulus invoking anxiety is paired with a neutral feeling like relaxation, the person can overcome it and, in turn, anxiety. For example, a freediving beginner is getting motivated to freedive but gets anxious over submerging and descending in the water.
Actually, when a freediving beginner thinks of getting into open water with one breath, he feels short of breath, heart racing, and profuse sweating. Therefore, a freediver should learn relaxation techniques, such as controlled breathing, to overcome these feelings.
Moreover, freedivers may develop some thoughts and behaviors to overcome anxiety. He may imagine himself approaching the water and getting into a pool. On the other hand, another freediver may practice Vivo exercises, such as walking into a pool and kneeling with the head only underwater.
Freediver should -based on motivation, patience and strict follow of instruction- be able to reduce or even overcome anxiety and enjoy to the fullest.
Implosion therapies or techniques sometimes referred to as flooding, deluge the person producing anxiety stimulus with the idea of becoming more accustomed to stress. In fact, some training given to freediving beginners to get accustomed to the new experience is not recommended.
It is obvious that trainees imagine the worst case in detail which puts more stress and anxiety on them, affecting their real experience underwater.
The thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors of an anxiety-producing person can be rearranged by these various treatment methods. A person can explore his past anxiety incidents directed by a therapist and can learn new ways to think of his concerns or eliminate them. He can also learn some techniques to stop these thoughts before they turn to overwhelming anxiety.
When a freediver faces a scary situation underwater, he convinces himself that something bad would happen every time he gets into the water. Thus, he becomes anxious and cannot enjoy the coming dives. Hence, the cognitive-behavioral approach explores the worst situation that would happen.
Hypnotherapeutic techniques include some methodologies, such as relaxation. Hypnosis is a magical treatment for anxiety as it assists in treating anxiety as a whole.
A person’s response to hypnotherapeutic techniques can be determined by factors, such as prior anticipations for results, beliefs, and motivations with regard to hypnosis, in addition to some individual differences, such as how persons are more susceptible to hypnotic induction than others or how they can relax more easily.
Freediving is proven as an effective way to reduce anxiety and stress. Freediving anxiety can be handled and freedivers can overcome their fears and stress following the various techniques above. If you have anxiety and feel anxious while freediving, try those techniques for a better experience.