Sunday February 16 2020
March 30, 2018

Three Simple Steps to Avoid Panic Underwater

You started your scuba diving course and you are on the shore /  poolside.

Your scuba diving instructor wanted you to kneel and breath underwater after a briefing about your very first scuba diving session.

Maybe you were an amateur free diver and got used to with the mask, snorkel and fins, but not a tank and a regulator!

You are just like a koi out of its pond.

At this point, you may feel like in two different ways:

  1. Excited about what you are doing! You think breathing underwater and watching the aquatic environment is fantastic!
  2. Stressed about what you are doing! You feel extremely uncomfortable and want to step on the land again asap!

If you belong to # 1, go ahead and enjoy your dives.

Whereas if you are # 2 type, I have something for you. 

Stress Transforms into Panic 

Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] /

If you started to feel stressful underwater and you (or dive professional(s) around you) cannot manage it properly, your stress will “upgrade” itself and become a panic.

Panic is the older brother of stress. If you cannot kill stress, it grows and transforms into panic.

You know what?

Panic is the reason of majority of the dive accidents.

Let’s turn back to our example above. If you are in a pool / confined water for your scuba diving course, the depth is no more than 1.5 meters.

So, there is like no chance that there will be no dive accident at all if you stress and then panic and bolt to the surface in such a depth.

However, we are trying to enjoy scuba diving.

Not trying to “survive” from a scuba diving course.

I know you are asking; “Okay Seaman, we must manage our stress not to make it evolve into panic, but how?!

In this post, I want to teach you three steps to avoid panic underwater for those who just started an open water diver course and those who completed the course but still feel distressed underwater.


First thing you should know is to stop.

Easy, ehh?

Actually, not. 

When you feel stressful, you should stop.

This means a mental stop, more than a physical stop. But you can stop both, if you would like to.

For instance, let’s assume you are under the water and your dive instructor is demonstrating the mask removal skill. You know that you’ll be performing this skill in seconds and started to feel stressful. That’s because you think you are not going to be able to do this skill, or you don’t like seawater washing your face or whatever the reason is (Reading Removing Mask: A Challenging Dive Skill will help you perform this skill).

You afraid and become stressful.

What you must do first is NOT to focus on your negative thoughts.

Don’t let your inner sound beat you. 

STOP and focus on what you must think, instead.


After you successfully stopped your thoughts (controlled’em), you’ll not bold to the surface due to panic. You killed the stress, so it cannot evolve into panic.

Now, we will take it further. 

Second step is to think about what made you stressful and what you can do about it.

I’ll give you what you should think about at this step.

In our example, we are afraid to perform mask removal skill and this caused stress. You want to surface asap and get out of water, huh?

After you stopped it, start to think why would you like to bolt to the surface?

What you will be doing on the surface that you think you are not able to do underwater?

Remember guys; an issue occurred underwater can be solved underwater. 

So, what are you planning to do when you reach to the surface to relax?





Close your eyes?


You can do all these underwater, too.

You have your air source. 

This is the very first think I want you guys to remember first in such a situation.

Breathe deeply. Stay relaxed.

Wanna cough? Sneeze? Even vomit?

Hold your regulator second stage with your left hand (it can blow off your mouth due to pressure you create) and cough, sneeze, vomit as much as you want to.

Vomit can go out of regulator valve, don’t worry. Fish will love it and come close to you :))

So, there is nothing you can do on land that cannot do underwater in such a situation, right?

This means that if you panic and bolt to the surface, what you will only have is the possibility of experiencing a dive accident, nothing more than that.

Thus, we don’t have to panic and ascend to the surface asap.

Just think about what I have told you above and remember to take deep breaths.


Our third step is to act.

You stopped the stress and didn’t let it evolve into panic.

Then you thought about what caused this stress and what you can do.

Now, it is time to perform whatever you were about to do minutes ago.

If I sum up;

It doesn’t matter what caused you to become distressed. It is how you react.


This will help you a lot in your scuba diving courses/pleasure dives throughout your dive career.

I am not telling you that this strategy is really easy to implement. For sure it will take some.

What I am telling you is that this strategy will work 100%.

 Please apply this strategy to your life and share the results with us by commenting on this post below.

Get more stuff like this

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Share this:

About Seaman


Hi, my name is Murat Demirağ. I have been diving since 1996 and teaching scuba since 2005. I wanted to share my knowledge through

  • Website
  • Instagram
  • Email

Add Comment