Learning to breathe in stormy water

By Caitriona McMahon

Fear, otherwise known as false evidence appearing real, has the ability to incapacitate us in the blink of an eye. So how can we deal with such a thing when it pops up in everyday life? Or can we?

Although sport has been a major part of my life from the early years, swimming is a skill I didn’t master until my late teens.

To my dismay I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to hitting the pool. Don’t get me wrong I tried, oh boy did I


I kicked and I kicked but I never seemed to go anywhere. It was only recently that I realised there could be more to learn from the sport than we may think.

Some may say I had a splash of insight (sorry couldn’t resist the pun). If we look into the various aspects of swimming a little deeper, it may in fact give us a better understanding of ourselves and how we tackle fear.

Take me for example, who in the beginning while learning to swim, found myself to be sinking before I touched

the water at all.


How you might ask? Is that possible? Well for a start, I let comments from onlookers affect me.  Each comment muttered created resistance infusing fear deep under the surface to inhibit my efforts to float and in turn swim.

So why do we take these comments on and allow them to weigh us down?

And did you know that as we tense in water, our bodies starts to sink as we weigh more due to our tense muscles.

Evidence of this is clear if a person is cramping in a pool, regardless of the strength of the swimmer, they will be dragged down and the same can be said for negative thought patterns.

They are the equivalent of a cramp in the brain. They create tension which drags us down in life. Like a weight on our ankles.

Now if we were to instead trust in ourselves, lie back and go with the flow of life we would stand a much better chance at reaching our destination by floating along.

Why do we resist or fight the natural flow of life? Do we need to?

To stay above water the art of threading water or maintaining an upright position in deep water requires practice but once learnt it helps us to cope in the toughest of waters by keeping our head above the surface.

So that got me thinking what helps us when struggling to stay afloat in everyday situations.

What is in your self care tool box? Do you have one? Examples of items would be colouring items, favourite pictures, chocolate, a list of things you are grateful for, numbers for friends or maybe a book?

But it’s with breathing that most learners struggle, when it comes to swimming. A lot of learners hold their breath and go for gold or for as long as they can last.

Sound familiar? The correct way however is to exhale through your nose and mouth in the water and inhale through your mouth as you roll to the side and so on.

By taking in oxygen the body calms and can perform for longer. When faced with change or fear the motion of mindfully breathing can be liberating too.

Stop for a moment, sit, inhale and exhale fully, feeling each breathe as it naturally happens.

Both in and out of the swimming pool, if applied, these lessons can add a splash of calm to our lives.

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