Holidays: Family, Fun, and...Stress. When’s Your Next Dive?
As the holidays loom in the background, and you begin to prepare for the joy of visiting with friends and family, you also begin to prepare for the stress of the season. It’s no secret that stress increases as the holidays approach and everyone tries to fit more activities and events into their already busy schedules.
There’s the stress of time, finances, and well…hanging out with friends and family that we may not hang out with regularly. If you’re traveling this holiday season, you have the added stress of planning a road trip or getting on a plane (and taking the family) and dealing with all the stress that comes along with travel too. Fun times.
Even talking about the stress of the holiday season makes us want to don gear and go hop in the ocean. Some might scoff at the thought; however, according to research and an article posted on the National Library of Medicine, indications point to scuba diving as a very effective way to relieve stress. Possibly even better than participating regularly in other sports.
Wait…Isn’t Scuba Diving Stressful?
Yes and no. As you start diving, it is possible that preparing for and starting a dive is a bit stressful; however, even for a novice diver, once you’re under the water a sense of calm envelopes you. All the noise and hustle and bustle from the world above water just drifts away.
As your skills and abilities increase, your level of comfort increases. And before long, you’re craving the peace and solitude the water offers. Down there, there are no car horns, not much in the way of traffic unless you’re on a group dive, and the only lines you’re gonna run across are those anchor lines, guidelines, or the line for your surface marker buoy (smb).
Doesn’t adding one more thing to the list of commitments this time of year make it worse? It could, but the health benefits of adding a dive (or several) to relieve stress during the holiday season can make all the difference in the world.
How Does Scuba Diving Help?
When you dive, you focus on your breathing…otherwise you’re back on the surface in no time. All mindfulness activities start with your breath and slowing your rate of breathing down. When you do this, you can literally feel your body start to relax. Additionally, yoga and meditation studios play calming music in the background in an effort to alleviate the offensive noise of traffic, construction, and the like. When you’re underwater…there is very little noise. You might hear the crackling of the silt in the water, other divers, or the low hum of an engine racing by on the surface. For the most part, diving offers the most serene silence and is an easy and very effective way to relieve stress.
Add in colorful marine life swimming about, an elegant sea turtle gliding along, coral fans waving in the current and surge, and you’ve got a plethora of activity to take your mind off all the literal and figurative ‘noise’ on the surface. Talk about a calming environment. Perhaps you’ll get lucky enough to find an octopus sneaking around the reef or an eel relaxing. Did you see the nurse shark over there resting? Or the lobster hiding in that crevice? We can see your stress level dropping and the smile forming as you explore.
Did you know that the sound of your regulator and the regulators of those around you creates a rhythmic symphony that is soothing and aids in reducing your stress? Better than your favorite yoga instructor’s best meditation tracks. Combined with the fact that you’re weightless and surrounded by water that’s supporting your body with every movement, you’ve got an ideal environment to induce relaxation.
Time to Dive
As we head out on the dive boat, we can feel the stress staying behind. The rush of the water, watching the waves, and feeling the boat move effortlessly through the water come together as we realize we’re breathing easier already. Focusing on our gear, there really isn’t room for the mental clutter - the stress and demands of life on the surface. Any stress you brought on the boat just falls away in the boat’s wake.
Time to gear up as the boat nears the dive site. You and your dive buddy check each other’s gear. As the captain says the ever coveted ‘Dive! Dive! Dive!’, you drop in and that gentle calmness of the ocean envelopes you as you float down towards your dive site.
Breathing, checking your gauges and dive computer, becoming aware of your surroundings, and keeping an eye on your dive buddy, you can feel the weight of the world lifted off your shoulders. You are literally immersed in a serene environment that nurtures healing.
Whether you’ve done it once or thousands of times, the excitement and peace that exists underwater doesn’t exist anywhere else. Those who have never experienced the serenity of being down there don’t understand…and you can’t really explain it. It’s something you have to experience and every single dive is different and rewarding in its own unique way.
Breathe, relax, explore. Everything on the surface will be there when you get back.
Why Are the Holidays Stressful?
As those texts, phone calls, invitations, and emails begin arriving, you start with happy anticipation. The holidays are coming and it’s time to celebrate. And as the preparations progress…suddenly, several people are having their gatherings on the same day…at the same time. Now you have to choose or rush around to all the events and spend more time behind the wheel of your car than actually visiting with the people you love and enjoy. Argh.
Then there’s the dishes you have to make to take along. And don’t forget the gifts…
Yeah - our blood pressure is rising too. Take a deep breath and let it all out. We got you.
How Does Stress Affect You?
You may find you’re a little short or impatient with people. Perhaps you honk more as you try to get from one place to another. Waiting in longer than normal lines to pay for something might now cause a bit of anxiety - I mean, you have places to go and things to get done.
Maybe a co-worker asks for your help (which you’re usually happy to lend)...and you snap at them. Stress is slowly building and you might find you’re eating more (or less). There’s so much to get done and so little time, the only options are to sleep less and cut back on the exercise. It’ll be fine, right? You might even finally give in and decide to skip an event or two.
All of these things: anger, anxiety, change in behavior, high blood pressure, weight gain or loss, lack of sleep, and lack of physical activity combine and work against you. Your body starts rebelling and as stressors stack up, it can lead to accidents, injuries, and a weaker immune system.
It’s time for a physical and mental health check.
How Can I Manage Holiday Stress?
Sometimes taking just 5 minutes to focus on your breathing can make a world of difference.
Though there are a multitude of ways to manage stress, and holiday stress in particular, we highly recommend scuba diving, breathing exercises, and mindfulness activities.
So…when is your next dive?