Deal with Anxiety at Work or School: Be a SCUBA Diver

Anxiety can make work or school difficult. A strong sense of perfectionism can make starting and completing tasks daunting, sometimes leading to incomplete work and missed deadlines. Fears about presentations can make life miserable. Even worries about sitting in a quiet room where others can see or hear you or stressful situations with coworkers or classmates can cause anxiety symptoms to skyrocket. The effects of work or school anxiety can make every day miserable or even keep you at home in avoidance. One approach to deal with this is to become a SCUBA diver. 

Why SCUBA Diving Relates to School and Work Anxiety

It's true. You can improve anxiety at work or school by being like a SCUBA diver (I do mean that figuratively, of course.). This is why I chose SCUBA diving as an activity to model yourself after rather than any other activity: SCUBA diving involves immersing oneself into deep water and moving about among strange things in that water--but SCUBA divers don't have to know how to swim. Men, women, and kids who dive must know how to move about and use diving equipment, but they don't need to be strong swimmers to survive and have fun in the water. 

Like a SCUBA diver, you can dive into the work or school experience (or any other life experience, for that matter) before waiting until you know how to "swim." You can thrive before your anxiety is gone. You don't have to wait to embrace school or work until you know how to function without anxiety. 

How to Dive into School or Work Before Anxiety is Gone

Like a SCUBA diver, you need equipment, tools, to be able to move freely in your environment. Your tools are your knowledge, skills, and techniques you're learning all the time. For example, you might be building mindfulness skills to help you stay calm and focused on the present moment or learning techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy to help you change anxious thoughts. With these tools, you are learning how to swim, but you don't have to master anything before you can dive fully into your life. Keep working with what you know and adding new techniques and information to help you reduce your anxiety, but you don't have to put your life on hold while you're learning. 

Also, like a diver, have a purpose and a plan. Divers do what they do for a reason, whether it's to explore in general, study something specific, or simply to relax and have fun. They also know where they're going. You, too, have a purpose for going to school or work, and you have goals to help you know where you're going. Often, though, our sense of purpose and our goals get buried and lost under the heavy weight of anxiety. The sense that you don't know how to swim can take over, and your purpose and goals can sink to the depths of the sea. Once you're aware of this, you can prevent that from happening. 

  • Spend some time exploring your motivation, your reason for going to school or work. In the words of Fredrich Nietzsche, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." When you feel a strong sense of purpose underlying why you attend school or go to work, it's easier to do what you need to do despite feeling anxious. Again and again, you can shift your focus away from anxiety and onto what is important to you. 
  • Develop action steps to take every day to fulfill your purpose and meet your goals. Action steps are part of your diving equipment. What little things do you need to do today to work toward your purpose? Think in terms of small steps. A diver doesn't use elaborate swimming strokes to propel themselves forward but instead moves with small but powerful motions with their flippers. 

When anxiety tries to act like a shark in the water, simply return to your purpose, goals, and action steps and move forward despite the shark. Like someone who tries to wait until they know how to swim before they enjoy SCUBA diving, if you wait for your anxiety to be gone before you dive fully into school or work, you could miss a great deal. Instead, take the plunge and embrace each day. 

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2020, October 1). Deal with Anxiety at Work or School: Be a SCUBA Diver, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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