Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy How Adults Can Get Over Their Fear of Water

How Adults Can Get Over Their Fear of Water

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You can overcome your fear of water as an adult by understanding the root of your fear, starting your journey with gradual exposure, and utilising relaxing breathing techniques.

Embrace the process of becoming comfortable with water by experimenting with submersion techniques, bolstering your confidence by learning basic swimming skills. 

Seek professional guidance through private lessons, or join group classes for added camaraderie. Mindfulness and visualisation help to focus and calm your mind, and remember to celebrate every victory, no matter how small.

As you embrace each of these steps, you’ll find yourself gaining more confidence, and soon the water won’t seem so intimidating. Stick around, we’ve got lots more tips to help this journey become even more manageable.

The importance of gradual exposure

Once you’ve understood the roots and effects of your fear, it’s time to start facing it through gradual, gentle exposure. This approach can be essential in conquering your fear of water. Don’t feel pressured to jump in the deep end right away. It’s not a race. Your comfort and safety are paramount.

Start by simply sitting by the pool, observing others, and absorbing the environment. Gradually, dip your toes in, then your feet. Progress to sitting on the pool steps. Remember, each small step is a victory. Embrace each of these as a step forward.

Next, it’s time for partial immersion. You can stand or sit in shallow water. With time, you’ll become accustomed to the sensation of water. Don’t forget to celebrate these moments of progress.

Eventually, you’ll feel ready to move further into the pool. At this point, make sure you have a trusted companion or a professional instructor with you. They can provide support and reassurance when you need it.

Gradual exposure allows you to face your fear in a controlled, manageable way. It helps to build your confidence, reduce anxiety, and ultimately, conquer your fear of water.

Breathing techniques for relaxation

As you become more at ease in the water, mastering effective breathing techniques can greatly enhance your relaxation and reduce fear. Breathing, though automatic, can be controlled and manipulated to calm your mind and body. So, let’s delve into some techniques.

The first is slow breathing. Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. This intentional process helps slow your heart rate and relax your muscles.

Next, try belly breathing. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. As you breathe in, make your belly move more than your chest. This kind of breathing signals your brain to calm down and relax.

Lastly, there’s the 4-7-8 technique. Breathe in quietly through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds, and exhale forcefully through the mouth for 8 seconds. This not only provides relaxation but also acts as a natural tranquilliser for the nervous system.

Learning basic swimming skills

Don’t worry, you’re not jumping straight into the deep end! Instead, you’re going to start with the fundamentals.

First, you’ll need to master floating. Yes, it’s as simple as it sounds! Lie back in the water with your arms and legs stretched out and just relax. Trust that the water will support you. It might take a while, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll realise it’s an essential skill in swimming.

Next, you’ll learn about treading water. This involves moving your arms and legs to keep your head above water. It’s a great skill to have if you need to pause and catch your breath during a swim.

Implementing safety measures

While learning to swim is a thrilling adventure, it’s important to implement safety measures every step of the way. Here’s how you can do that:.

  • Always have a buddy present when you’re in the water. Don’t swim alone. This rule isn’t just for beginners; it’s for everyone. Your buddy can provide assistance if you struggle and summon help if needed.
  • Wear appropriate gear. This includes a well-fitting swimsuit and, if you’re just starting, a life jacket. Remember, safety gear isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a smart precaution.
  • Pay attention to water conditions. If you’re swimming in a pool, is the water clear? Can you see the bottom? If you’re in natural water, are there strong currents or hidden dangers like rocks?
  • Follow the rules of the swimming area. This can include pool rules or beach regulations. They’re meant to keep everyone safe.
  • Know your limits. Don’t push yourself too far or too fast. It’s okay to take small, measured steps in your swimming journey.

Safety measures aren’t meant to scare you, but to give you the confidence to conquer your fear. They’re an integral part of learning to swim.

Practising water confidence drills

To conquer your fear of water, diving into water confidence drills can be a game-changer. These drills are simple exercises designed to help you feel more comfortable in the water. They aren’t about swimming lengths or perfecting your stroke, they’re about gaining confidence.

Start with getting used to the sensation of water on your face. Stand in shallow water, take a deep breath, and slowly lower your face into the water. Initially, you might find this unnerving, but it’s an essential first step in overcoming your fear.

Next, practise floating. Start in shallow water and gradually move to deeper areas. Remember, the human body naturally floats, so lean back, relax, and let the water support you.

Then, try blowing bubbles underwater. It’s a fun, stress-free way to get used to breathing in the water. You’ll find that being able to control your breath can greatly reduce your fear.

Lastly, practice treading water. It’s a crucial skill that can help you stay afloat in deeper water. Don’t rush yourself, take it slow, and before you know it, you’ll be more comfortable in the water.

Seeking professional guidance

Even with dedicated practice, considering professional assistance from MJ Swim Academy can significantly enhance your comfort and assurance in the water. Don’t shy away from reaching out to an expert who specialises in supporting adults in overcoming their fear of water. 

These professionals are trained to understand your anxiety and they’ve got techniques up their sleeve to help you gain water confidence.

One option is to hire a private swim instructor. They’ll be able to offer personalized lessons designed to meet your specific needs and fears. They’ll start at your comfort level, gradually introducing you to deeper water as your confidence grows. You’re not rushed; you’ll move at your own pace.

Another alternative is to join a group class specifically designed for adults learning to swim or overcoming their fear of water. Here, you’ll find camaraderie and support from others who share your experiences. You won’t feel alone in your journey, which can be quite reassuring.


You’ve got this. Overcoming your fear of water isn’t a race; it’s your personal journey. Start slow, practice breathing techniques, and get comfortable with submersion.

Learn basic swimming skills and increase your water confidence through drills. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help and use mindfulness and visualisation to stay focused.

Remember, every small victory is worth celebrating. Keep pushing, keep swimming, and soon, you’ll conquer your fear.

Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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