How to conquer water phobia as an adult

Fitness & Wellness
Written by: Leila Vaziri at 23 April '14 0
You are reading: How to conquer water phobia as an adult

Feeling anxious or hesitant at the thought of swimming?

Too often these negative feelings are associated with water. If the very thought of submerging yourself into it makes you shudder, then you maybe one of the thousands, if not millions of adults who struggle with water fear.

The very first few moments entering water and the resulting adrenaline rush coursing throughout our bodies is often confused with a sense of losing control or the fear of the unknown. As humans, we assess our environment, take cues from the outside world and assign meaning and traits to our stimuli. But presented with an unknown body of water, we quickly shriek at the countless unknown factors: What’s the temperature, what’s the depth, and what could possibly be at the bottom? Suspense builds and fear sets in.

The sea is calling you, and the time is now to confront your water phobia.

My suggestion would be first and foremost, find someone you trust to help ease your fears of the water. It’s always easier trying something new or challenging with the support of a team, even if the count is only one. If you don’t have a good friend that you can turn to for help, perhaps invest in finding a swim coach or in joining a club. See swim classes as an investment. At first you may need to do a bit of research or to even try a handful of classes to find someone who suits you, but it will be worthwhile when you’ve successfully ascertained swimming skills that you can use for the rest of your life.

Many times people contact me about helping them with their water phobia and worry that I only coach more ‘advanced individuals’, but I can assure you this is not the case. Many adults come to swimming in later life, sometimes carrying baggage, phobias, and fears, only to find that they love the sport and cherish their time in the water. I often hear “How come it took me so long to realize how much I love swimming”.

Now that you’ve gotten over your hang-ups, have a place to go, and found a person whom you’ll entrust for your first time, it’s time to buy some swim gear. It’s minimal but essential. Find a good pair of goggles and swim cap. A swimsuit is a must also. You want your general comfort level to be high, so that you’re e not fussing about getting water in your ears and eyes or your suit parachuting out throughout your swim.

You’re at the pool, with someone you trust, and equipped to take the plunge.

As you stand on the edge of the unknown, gather yourself together and take a deep breath in. The first moments in the pool are about quieting your fears and lowering your stress levels. Often we can slow our heart rate and ease tension by just being aware of our breathing. Anticipate the first moment you enter the water. It will take your breath away, as it is usually cold, and water temperature is lower than air temperature. Don’t let the initial breathlessness throw you, it’s only for a few short moments, until your body temperature regulates to a comfortable level.

Once this passes, you be able adjust your focus on other factors, like how deep is the water. As you lower your body in inch by inch (up to your chest and shoulders), your body naturally starts to adjust, leaving one last thing to conquer: putting your face below the water. As human mammals, we are not capable of breathing in water, so don’t test this theory. Practice taking a deep breath in out of the water, and then placing your face slightly in to it, allowing for a deep sigh. If you can relax your body, it should start to feel natural.

Congratulations, you’re on your way to conquering your fear or water. Don’t let a lingering childhood experience or lack of experience keep you from water, learn to enjoy the rush of the unknown moment before a swim. This summer as you casually take a cool dip in the local lake, ocean, or backyard pool you’ll be thinking “What took me so long?”. It only gets better with experience!


Written by:

Leila Vaziri

Leila Vaziri is a former World Record Holder, World Champion, and member of the US National team. Currently Leila is a private Swim Coach based out of New York City and South Florida.