Early season snowmelt means that once-trickled, high-alpine waterways quickly become a rushing torrent. Crossing these treacherous streams can stop us in our tracks, especially if we carry fear to the water’s edge. The next time you’re stuck in a soggy situation, remember these tips on conquering your fear of water.

1. It’s OK to Be Afraid

The first thing to understand about any fear, is that fear is natural. It’s our body’s way of telling us that there is risk. Understanding and accepting fear as a normal part of life is step one in overcoming what scares you. The next time you’re faced with a rushing stream, or a scary swim thank yourself for feeling afraid. Tell yourself it is ok to feel this way and you will get through it.

2. Breathe Deeply

Sometimes, fear can stop us in our tracks, literally. We are overcome by an onslaught of emotional responses that trigger fight or flight hormones to release and our world to appear chaotic. Before that feeling hits us, we experience a stir of emotions. The next time this happens, pause. Take a deep breath in your nose and out of your mouth. Make noise on your exhale if it feels right for you. Allow yourself to see your fear, acknowledge it and not let it consume you.

3. Identify What It is that Scares You, and Learn

Perhaps you don’t know how to swim. Maybe you do not like the feeling of water rushing around your feet, threatening to knock you over. Whatever that fear is, invest time in discovering why it exists. Specifically identify what part of being near water that scares you. Next, take action. If you don’t know how to swim, consider enrolling in an adult swim class, or have a trusted friend show you the ropes. If moving across a rushing creek gives you the jitters when you hike, learn how to cross smaller streams with less consequence using your trekking poles or a hand line.

4. Understand Your Limits

Not every day is going to be the day you slay your fears. This is natural. You may come across a body of water that doesn’t even look that bad, but you don’t have the energy to work through your fears. That’s totally normal. The best you can ask for is to ask yourself to try. Accept that every day is not going to be your best day. The important takeaway is that if you want to let go of your fear of water, you need to allow yourself to face your fear when the opportunity arises.

5. Get into the Details

It helps to understand the science behind your fears. For water, understand that our bodies are made up of 80 percent water. That means, we have a natural tendency to float. If you lie on your back in the water and stick your tummy up, you’ll notice that you float almost naturally. Call it luck or call it evolution, but our bodies are designed to survive short durations in the water. Understand your body’s innate defense mechanisms against drowning, and your fears can feel a little smaller.

When it comes to fear, we don’t always understand what to do. Through acceptance, understanding, and learning, we can start to alleviate our fear of water. In the end, we progress towards a life where we do not fear bodies of water and instead can enjoy more time around the beautiful ecosystems they offer.

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