Most branches of the armed services have to demonstrate confidence in the water. From amphibious operations to self-preservation and lifesaving, you never know when you will be required to enter a body of water and swim.
Some people are naturally confident in water. They are often strong swimmers, but swimming ability and water confidence are not always related. It’s one thing to be confident and strong in a pool, but what about in the middle of the open sea?
Here are four ways to get more confident in the water.
#1 Breathe, breathe, BREATHE!
One of the first things that happen when you are thrust into a stressful situation is that your breathing rate increases. Not only do you breathe faster, but you also breathe shallower too. This is known as panic breathing. Panic breathing makes things worse!
For starters, panic breathing reduces the flow of oxygen to your brain. This increases your anxiety even more. Also, rapid, shallow breathing increases carbon dioxide levels in your blood. This makes you breathe faster still, producing a greater panic response. Panic breathing also burns a lot of energy.
Reduce anxiety and improve your confidence by controlling the rate and depth of your breathing. Breathe to a slow and regular cadence, such as in for four and out for four. With your breath under control, you can concentrate on and conserve your energy for swimming or treading water.
#2 Build up gradually
When it comes to water confidence, diving in at the deep end of the pool, metaphorically or actually, is not the best solution. Instead, find your comfort level and then gradually move beyond it.
For example, if deep water makes you nervous, get used to shallow water first. Then, once you start to feel comfortable, move into slightly deeper water. Continue this process until you feel relaxed and happy in really deep water. You may need to push yourself to take the next step but, remember, it’s only a small increase beyond what you have already achieved.
Once you have developed a reasonable level of confidence, purposely push yourself out of your comfort zone. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. You’ll soon find that the things that used to make you nervous are no longer such a big deal. This is the basis of a lot of military training – train hard, fight easy.
#3 Shout down your internal voice
We often lose confidence because our internal “panic” voice is louder than our common sense voice. Common sense says everything is going to be okay, and that everything will work out. However, the panic voice is busy shouting “oh my God, we’re all going to DIE!” Talk about an overreaction.
There isn’t much you can do to stop your panic voice, but you can drown it out, so it becomes less influential. There are several ways to do this including:
Laugh at it and, better still, laugh out loud. Imagine laughing in the face of a bully to show them that you really aren’t scared.
Get aggressive. Anger is an excellent way to defeat fear. Learn to turn on your aggression but make sure you also maintain control. Hulking out will not help.
Have a rational dialogue with your panic voice. Calmly explain why, in fact, you are NOT going to die and why everything will be fine.
Talking or laughing to yourself might seem like an odd way to build confidence but it works. If you tell yourself you are confident enough times, you will become confident.
#4 Practice positive visualization
Have you heard the expression self-fulfilling prophecy? It describes how, if you say or think something often enough, it will come true. A lot of self-confidence issues are made worse by thinking that failure is inevitable. For example, when faced with a Combat Water Survival test, if you enter the water thinking "Man, I know I'm going to fail this thing," invariably that's precisely what will happen.
In the same way, you can use your thoughts to create a much more positive mindset, and one way to do this is through visualization.
Visualization involves creating a mental image of what you want to achieve. For example, with water confidence, you might picture yourself in the water and smiling happily because you enjoy being there. You can add weight to your visualization by turning it into a movie. See yourself doing the things that normally rock your confidence. Include sounds, sensations, and even odors to your film; make it as real as possible.
Do this exercise as many times as you can so that, when you are next faced with a situation that makes you feel unconfident, in your mind you have already conquered it dozens if not hundreds of times.