How Scuba Diving Taught Me to Stay Calm Under Pressure

How Scuba Diving Taught Me to Stay Calm Under Pressure

By Ann Marie MacVey

There are no familiar sounds when you’re 130 feet underwater. No voices. No music. No birds chirping.

It’s only then that you begin to pay attention to sounds you never knew existed. A colorful parrot fish just 20 feet away bites into a crunchy piece of algae. A distant pilot whale sings into the abyss. You become intensely aware of an aquatic symphony playing from every direction.

Perhaps more than anything, though, you hear your own breathing. Air swallowed, air released. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. Bubbles circumference your head like a halo. Each one serves as a little reminder that you’re alive – and what you’re experiencing is real and beautiful. That even though you’re over a hundred feet away from free oxygen, you’re in control.

Last summer, I lived in Cozumel, Mexico and became certified as a Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) Divemaster. PADI classes on that Caribbean island taught me how to drag and resuscitate an unconscious person from the ocean floor, how to fight vertigo at dangerous depths, and what to do when your dive buddy (or you) runs out of air. At the center of all those lessons was one core lesson: remain calm – no matter what. Losing control is an expense of energy and air. It also can, in the worst case, lead to drowning.

Since I started working in public relations, I’ve noticed many similarities between the fundamentals of scuba diving and PR. When a client throws a curveball, stay focused, and find a creative solution. When a teammate needs support, jump in to help – or lend a calming ear. Do your best, be a team player. Remember to take in the positive things surrounding you, much like the golden sun rays stretching through blue waters.

The same goes for diving; be aware, be a leader, and always dive with a friend. When you center on your breathing – whether looking through goggles or at a laptop screen – you’ll navigate your way through a maze of work (or a complicated dive route) and discover something beautiful. You’ll realize your teammates are imperative, you’re capable of tackling setbacks, and, ultimately, you’ll embrace every opportunity to take a deep dive into an arduous assignment.

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