Overcome Panic

How to overcome panic when swimming?

By Keri-anne Payne

A question I get asked a lot. There are many things that might make a person panic in the open water like the animals or the weeds.

So what do you do if you find yourself in a panic?

Well the easy hack is at the bottom of this blog BUT I would highly recommend reading the whole thing!



In an ideal scenario you would ideally have;

1. The kit: a tow float and bright hat as a minimum

2. The knowledge: of the water you will be swimming in

3. The plan: of what and how your swim will go

swim with prideswim with pride


BUT, it's not always that easy. I am all for swimming safely and I think this can be done all the time, my simple rule is if in doubt... get out!

Having said that, with the warmer summer months you might find that you’re out seeing some friends and all decide to go for a dip and you don't have your kit…

So here's what you need to consider before getting in;

1. Is the water flowing fast or has the tide changed?

2. If you needed to, could you swim against it? If not, don't go out of your depth.

3. Where is the best and safest place to get in and out?

4. If in doubt get out!

5. My final motto "Always get out wanting more"

6. A quick dip well within your depth will help cool you off and add to the great summer memories along the way!

swim with prideswim with pride


Something that can help with the above even better, is to download the Wild Open Water app, you can check the forecast, complete the pre swim SOS with your friends and send a beacon to an emergency contact so they know where you are.


swim with prideswim with pride

So what to do if you've done all the above but you still find yourself in a panic?

Well the quickest, easiest and safest way to deal with panic is through breathing! Bringing your breathing back to a normal rhythm will keep you in the right frame of mind.


What do I mean by that? Well the simplest way to explain is that we have 2 parts to the brain;

1. The oldest part of the brain - the caveman part - fight, flight or freeze 

2. The newest part which is our ability to problem solve, use rationale and access common sense.

(There are many, way more, scientific explanations out there but I'm keeping it simple.)

When it comes to our brain, we can't be in both parts at the same time, so if you start to panic your brain heads into caveman instinct and you either fight, flight or freeze!

Neither of those options will be safe in the water so the best & quickest way to keep out of that side and in the front part is through breathing. So if you feel a slight panic then find a safe place to rest or stop and run through 3 rounds of;

Breathing in for 3

Breathing out for 6

The key action here is to breath out for longer than you breathe in, as it's the out breath that's the calming trigger.

This breathing technique will help to calm the nervous system and keep panic at bay. Again if you start to feel panic it might be time to think about getting out.­­


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