Picture the scene........
You have your wetsuit on (correctly!) and you are standing by a beautiful lake. The sun is shining and you are about to dive into the water and go for a swim where you don't have to worry about splashing anyone in the lane next to you, you don't have to turn in 25 meters and you don't have to worry about following someones feet and swimming the correct side of the black line.
You walk down the ramp and your foot touches the water.......you notice it is a bit chillier than the pool and there is no black line or lane ropes or you can't touch the floor. Suddenly you panic and your chest tightens and it doesn't seem like such a good idea. You forget that the sun is shining and you have the freedom of the outdoors and you contemplate turning round.

If this sounds familiar then read on. We are about to talk you through some things you can do to help you. 

The first thing you can do is fix it in your favour. By that I mean pick a swimming lake rather than the sea. There will be safety vessels expecting you to be swimming. Also pick a day with good weather with minimal wind to keep the surface calm. Again a lake is better here as the sea can carry chop and swell easier. Swim with someone who knows that you might be a little bit nervous. They can swim near you and give you words of encouragement.

Secondly - take your time to get into the water. Even if the air temperature is warm the water may be a bit cooler than expected especially if you are swimming early. Stand with your feet in the water and splash your face. Look at the other people swimming and see how beautiful it looks. Walk a little deeper up to your waist until you feel the water seep in through the zip. This is perfectly normal. Breathe deeply and swish your hands in the water. Get a sense of how the water feels against your fingers. When you are ready pull the neck open at the front and duck down under the water. The idea of this is to let a layer of water flush into the suit. Stand up and walk back out. Get your breath back and let the water flow out of the legs. Push it down if you need to. This will help with the suit being close to your body and actually allow your body to warm that water up. 

Then ask yourself what you want to achieve from today's swim. You have already taken big steps but you may feel that you want to actually get swimming. Most lakes will have different length loops so pick a short loop that you know you can swim the distance. Think about how often you have done that and what your common thoughts are when you swim. Long stroke, easy breathing, rotate. Then walk back into the water and come to float on your back. See how the wetsuit gives you that buoyancy. When you are ready then roll onto your front and do some breast stroke. If this feels good then come into some head up front crawl. If it doesn't then roll onto your back and get your breath. Stay calm and remember you can do this. Try again. When you feel happier and are doing head up front crawl try to do a few strokes with your head down. Gradually the breast stroke will become less and you won't feel the need to roll onto your back. You are swimming with your head down. From here the key thing is to remember to breathe out under the water. Then remember that you want to take longer strokes. When you need to rest - do so. look around and take in the scene. No walls. Sunshine. Calmness and serenity all around you.

Knowing what causes your anxiety will help. Before you go swimming (or even after your first swim if you aren't sure what is causing it) think about what is triggering the anxiety - it could be one of the following
  • the unknown
  • you can't put your feet down
  • dark water
  • weeds in the water
  •         cold water
  •         losing your sense of direction
Once you realise the trigger then you can target the issue rather than sweep it aside.

Other Tips - 
  • Make sure you get a wetsuit that fits correctly
  • Try out your wetsuit in a swimming pool before - preferably with a deep end
  • Practise breathing out underwater when in the pool. We like to follow the SwimSmooth protocol of doing sink downs, blowing bubbles and saying "bubble, bubble, breathe" underwater when swimming.