After nearly passing out learning to dive in Fiji, I realized just how well the skills taught translate to every day life. Sure, diving can be dangerous (I am thankful I learned in a pool rather than the open ocean) but the reward outweighs the risk, and such is the allure of an adventurous life!
9 universal life lessons from scuba diving
1. Stay calm under pressure
Your mask gets flooded, you are running low on air, or the current is too strong? Don’t panic! The underlying principle of all scuba diving safety is to stay calm when things inevitably go wrong to avoid potential catastrophes underwater.
Similarly, life will throw you curve balls and it’s crucial to stay cool, calm and collected through difficult times. This is a doozy for my anxious, type A personality to master. If you feel afraid, worried, or confused: stop and compose yourself before reacting to a trying situation.
Final exam? Death in the family? Big race? Wedding day? Don’t stress yourself out. By relaxing rather than thinking of worse case scenarios, you empower a more positive outcome in the end.
2. It’s okay to drop dead weight
Scuba divers wear weight belts to help balance out buoyancy. Set your BCD to a level where you can choose to either hover comfortably, enjoying the scenery, sink to the bottom, or float on the surface. With this equipment, you are given complete control in the water, the ability to conserve energy and prevent unnecessary exhaustion. You and only you are responsible for the quality of your dive experience.
In life, it’s necessary to drop the people and situations that bring you down. When you are feeling anger, anxiety, resentfulness, or fear, there is something you are attached to causing this feeling. Learn to let go of relationships that do not serve you and surround yourself with positive influences.
Remember, only you have the power to choose whether to sink or swim. Let go of the ideal and embrace the reality. So do yourself a favor and prioritize things that bring joy to your life. You deserve it.
3. Learn to trust other people
Diving, like life itself, is an experience best shared. It can be extremely dangerous to go diving solo. You literally put our lives in the hands of others, thus you have to trust your buddy, instructors and guides to have your best interests in mind. Lean on your buddy for support and safety and make sure they can count on you to do the same.The value of trust and vulnerability is also applicable in real life. Invest in genuine relationships and stand by your friends through thick and thin. No one should have to journey through life alone!
4. Learn to trust yourself
Access yourself before diving. Are you psychologically and physically ready? Are any of the dive’s prospects stressing you out? In Fiji, they almost wouldn’t let me dive when I reported I took anti-anxiety medication. I reassured them that I knew my body and would be fine if I took baby steps beginning in the pool.
Following a buddy into an environment or depth you are not trained for or don’t feel comfortable in is a recipe for disaster. Know your limits and don’t dive if you are feeling pressured. Remain confident in yourself and your abilities. Your safety depends on your ability to rely on yourself above all else.
5. Be prepared
It is crucial to thoroughly check your diving gear before submerging yourself. Do you have a depth gauge? A timer? An alternate air source?
Familiarize yourself with the dive area and its dangers including local tides and currents to prevent accidents. Ensure you are well-rested, hydrated and nourished prior to diving. Learn how to properly dump valves on a BCD and check your SPG gauges regularly during the dive so you don’t find yourself low on air.
This skill can easily translate into everyday life. The trouble is, the future is uncertain and you don’t always know what life will throw your way. But by preparing yourself internally, you will be better equipped to handle tricky situations.
Think about the training it takes to be physically fit enough for a marathon, the studying it takes to be mentally equipped for an exam, the money saved as a financial backbone for retirement, or the emergency kit for a zombie apocalypse. It pays to be prepared!
6. Inhale confidence, exhale doubt
If it is your fist time diving, don’t be afraid to admit it! Breathing underwater is an unnatural act for humans, which is perhaps what makes it so thrilling. A new experience can be scary at first, but after training and practice, practice, practice, you are sure be proud of yourself for picking up a new skill!
If you don’t feel ready to take on a deep dive or night dive, trust that instinct. But don’t be afraid to expand beyond your comfort zone and challenge your own expectations to learn and grow with each new experience
7. Slow down
The resistance of water forces us to slow down in diving. And rushing your diving ascent or descent is painful and dangerous as your body doesn’t have enough time to adjust to the pressure.
Similarly, rushing through life, without taking time to be present in the moment can lead to discontent and burn out. Avoid the “busy trap” and allow yourself leisure time to relax and rejuvenate. Practice mindfulness, to control your body’s response to external events, so you don’t end up controlled by your emotions.
Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to, but when we slow down to reflect on the journey and savor the small joys, I can promise you will live a much more fulfilled life.
8. Communication is key
Divers know the importance of checking in to let your partner know you are safe, whether with hand signals or flashlights. Agree with your divemaster on a maximum depth and time in the water with emergency procedures in place to identify a diver in distress and if someone happens to go missing.
Access your goals with your diving partner. A diver who seeks thrill and adventure won’t be compatible with someone who wishes to photograph marine life.Open and honest communication is vital to any relationship. When two emotional beings bring their own experiences and expectations to the table, poor communication can either make or break a relationship.
Learn to talk transparently about your hopes, dreams and desires to determine if you will be compatible for the long term. For example, my constantly on-the-go, adventurous lifestyle may not mesh right with someone who doesn’t yet own a passport. And my outgoing personality may not work with someone more comfortable staying at home watching movies every night. It is important to have those discussions early and often with your partner.
The most important rule of diving is to keep breathing, no matter what. The air in your lungs will expand during ascent and contract during descent if you continuously breathe. If you hold your breath, air can’t escape which can cause damage.
If you get stressed, panicked, or overexert yourself, steady your breathing through your regulator. If your tank runs out of air simply breathe out slowly, without stopping. If you aren’t careful rising to the surface, you may end up with decompression sickness or “the bends.” This is caused when nitrogen bubbles escape into your blood stream and can result in death.
How right were our mothers when they would tell us to “take a deep breath” when we were angry. There is such relief when we take a deep breath and release some of those emotions on the exhale. People who panic, reacting by reflex, often cause more harm than good. No matter how frustrated or discouraged you may feel, just keep breathing. Life goes on.
As you see, scuba diving teaches you techniques that are invaluable to carry with us in our day to day lives!