What I learnt about fear: diving with sharks

Quick question, does fear hold you back from……

  • Doing things you want to do
  • Achieving your goals
  • Getting a good nights sleep
  • Affect your happiness
  • Or how about just keep you in a state of perpetual anxiety

Maybe you think to yourself, I’m not really scared of anything, or I have …. Fear, but it’s not really holding me back.

I want to ask you, isn’t it?

Now just to be clear, a little dose of fear can be healthy, self-protective even stops you from making terrible decisions, or at least may make you think about it for a second.

But what about irrational fears.

Now let me ask you?

What do images of sharks bring up for you?

Does your mind immediately conjure up images of jaws, with full da da sound effects, big teeth, thrashing water scenes, and high-pitched screams?

fear of shark

Maybe you think of loan sharks – let’s be honest, they are bad news and you should definitely stay away from them.

Or maybe you just try and get those bad images of Greg norman’s 65-year-old beach bod photos out of your mind, definitely cringeworthy if you ask me.

Could almost be terrifying in fact.

Now you may be wondering why we are talking about this.

Not that long ago, on a dark and starry night, I looked towards the ocean from the back of a boat and watched while circling sharks chased fish around the back of the boat.

I did this, while frustratingly and awkwardly getting stuck while fighting with my already wet wetsuit.

Increasingly, my heart rate started to rise, the hair was standing up on the back of my neck, my shoulders were tense, I felt constricted and my breathing was getting fast.

But I knew this was my chance, to dive with sharks on the great barrier reef and I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip me by.

I was also not going to let my husband remind me for the next 20 years that I didn’t get in when I could have gone diving with sharks, at night.

That moment, right before jumping into the black, choppy water, with small amounts of sea spray hitting my face, I reminded myself that I wanted this, I dreamt of this moment and I wasn’t going to let fear get in my way.

My torch provided a small, narrow, but powerful beam of light, which meant I could see a few metres ahead of me at a time.  I stayed close to the dive instructor and kept a close eye on my husband and my dive computer that tells me my depth, amount of air left in my tank, and my breathing rate amongst other things.

Fair to say, I was using up my air 50% faster than I usually would.

After a few minutes, I was noticing the fish, coral, and a sleeping turtle more than my own anxiety.


Only a minute or so later, I saw a 1.5m shark only a few meters away, and rather than being scared, I was so happy.

There is nothing quite like seeing animals in their natural environment, it gives me such a thrill.

Over the next 30 minutes, we saw a couple of different types of sharks, white tips and grey reef sharks, nothing particularly dangerous or known to attack humans.

The reality is, even if there had been, the risks of diving, of which there are many, are inherently more dangerous than any shark I was ever going to encounter.

While I’m not 100% sure of the exact stats, you’re far more likely to die in from choking on food,  falling over, getting stung by a bee, and possibly getting struck by lightning, than it is to get attacked or eaten by a shark.

But I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to worry about any of these on a day-to-day basis.

So often, our minds get in our own way.

Our brains, as incredible as they are, don’t know how to perceive risk accurately.

Now, what do you worry about?

Maybe think about day-to-day things, what someone said to you from work, what people think about you, something silly or embarrassing you did today.

Now, will you still be worried about this thing 6 months from now?

If not, let it go.

If it doesn’t have the capacity to dramatically change the course of your life, let it go, it’s not worth it.

Now, what can facing our fears do?

face your fear

Well for me, after diving with sharks, I felt like an adventurer, a real sense of achievement, the feeling of internal power that means I can achieve anything.

And then within days of coming back from holiday, I was facing a new challenge, a covid lockdown.

For me this means quick decisions about how to operate the clinic, fears about the welfare of our team, our patients, how do we keep people safe and healthy and not become the next covid hotspot, what about financial implications and budgeting.

These are genuine concerns and many of you are facing similar worries and fears, such as;

What will lockdown mean for my family?  How is my children’s education being affected by homeschool?  Is my job at risk?  How will I pay the bills?  Will I know if I’m not okay?  What do I do if I start to feel sick or in pain?  How do I care for vulnerable friends and family members who don’t live with me.

Firstly thinking back on when you faced a fear and felt a sense of achievement can help you build your confidence and resilience.

This can help buffer the effects of stress and burnout.

Then try to just limit yourself to one stress, fear, or worry at a time.

Break it down.

break it down

Know what is within your limits, or ability to control or influence.

There are lots of things outside of our control.  Try not to worry yourself about those, why, you can’t change it.

It’s just draining your energy and emotional reserves.

Focusing on what you can do to improve your situation or finding ways to feel a sense of accomplishment in times like these can be valuable.

It doesn’t have to be big or out of the ordinary.

This could include so many different possibilities.

Maybe you will feel like you are facing your fears and taking proactive action by reviewing your bank account and your budget.

Or maybe you can face your fears about your vulnerable family members by checking in with them more regularly, this could be a phone call, sending a food parcel, or writing a nice card to let them know you care.

Or maybe you can alleviate yourself from the stress of forced homeschooling by looking at the stats of planned homeschooling.   Did you know lots of kids can keep up with the core curriculum of school by doing only an hour of educational study per day?

Isn’t that amazing!

Diving with sharks reminded me on focusing on what really matters and making proactive choices to lead me closer to my goals while reminding me that often fears, worry, or stress are just not all that necessary most of the time.

Take a moment to recognise a fear, big or small, and take one step or action to help remedy or face your fears and you may just feel a little bit better about it.

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