Tag Archives: stress management

What Scuba Diving Taught Me about Dealing with Stress

Kelp forest

Photo courtesy of: David ho at raptureofthedeep.org

In December of 2012, I became a certified scuba diver. I didn’t go anywhere fancy for my “check-out” dive after spending a pool weekend in SoMa, just Monterey, CA.

It was a dreary, drizzly day indeed that we submerged ourselves in the 55 degree waters and descended to the depths. I’d never been afraid of scuba diving or swimming or anything else rational, but I did feel acutely, for the first time, what it was like to exist in an alien environment.

I thought I was far too smart to freak out, but I did end up experiencing moments of panic, even when I knew I had plenty of air and that I was in the company of experts and that there was nothing to fear. Despite this irrefutable logic, occasionally I would be hit with the intense feeling of “I want to be above water NOW,” with my mind instantly starting to circle the dark what-if places.

But then, the gods of Monterey would whisper softly in my ear, “Breathe. Just breathe. There is air in your tank. There is a regulator in your mouth. Breathe, you fool.” And I would, and it was fine, and I could enjoy the kelp forests swaying beneath the surface in a never ending song, stretching up past where my brown eye could see.

Shortly after my scuba diving adventure, I experienced a moment in which I was stressed out. Somehow, all of the tasks I’d ever lined up for myself became compressed into a single moment, and I bore the entire weight of my 20, 15, 10, and 5 year goals at once, along with my various daily to-do lists. It was paralyzing, and I tasted the familiar flavor of panic and inadequacy.

Then I remembered what the gods whispered to me under the sea, as I rocked back and forth next to the kelp forests, and I remembered that I could breathe, that I had everything I needed at that moment to survive, and that I would survive. Then, all my goals and to-dos slinkied back out to a normal distance, and I was okay, but only as long as I kept breathing.

If you liked this post, you might also like: What Improv Taught Me about Life, The 24-Hour Starbucks on California Street, and The Elastic Minutes. 

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Places to Think about Life in Downtown San Francisco

Bay Bridge from the Embarcadero in San FranciscoYou are responsible for managing your career/life. No one will do this for you, and it certainly doesn’t just happen. If you don’t wake up excited about your job or what you’re about to do all day, feeling like a lovely flower blooming in the sunlight of opportunity, it’s your job to fix something. Read this Onion article for a little more clarity on why doing anything else is pretty dumb.

At the same time, it’s not easy to switch careers or even understand where to begin, and time goes by so fast, all the sudden the weekened’s here but then it’s gone and all those things you wanted to think about are pushed to next week, again. So, where do you get the time to think about life? How do you find the correct patch of time-space fabric in which to plot your career, or any other kinds of goals you may have.

First off, make this a priority. Take your lunch break, and get out of the office, the hospital, the restaurant, or the mine. Removal is key, otherwise someone will probably ask you to do something. If your mine shaft, office building, or restaurant happens to be close to or in downtown San Francisco, I have some ideas for places you can escape to.

1. The Embarcadero

This is the street/boardwalk that borders the bay. Take some time to walk here and look out over the water and watch the sailboats doing their thing or look at the bridge, which is pretty cool. Stare at the people that stroll, business walk, or jog by you, some of them tourists trying to suck the marrow out of the city, others of them citizens getting their heart rates up or eating. The transience in the midst of such a broad landscape will help you as you try to decipher, “Where am I going in this wide world, and what do I need to do to get there?”

2. The Marriott on 2nd and Folsom

This Marriott has a huge lobby with ample seating and is a popular place for biz types to gather and discuss things they care about business-wise. Your first reaction might be, “How the heck am I supposed to think when I’m surrounded by people who are talking about business and holding meetings.” You’re right, there are people doing those things here, but look closer, and you’ll find people just checking in to their rooms and passing through the city. Think about them and their experience compared to yours. Boom. Your world just got bigger. Imagine the web of their relationships and watch it stretch over the entire globe. Boom. Your world just got bigger again. Then think about the person you want to be in 5 years and how to get there. It’s as simple as that.

3. The picnic area on 2nd and Folsom, south side

Come, sit in the sun, watch other people eat, and maybe enjoy something yourself. Look at the water in the fountain, the substance most critical to our very existence. Look at the trees, doing their all-important and only work of transforming sunlight into food, then think about what you’re doing that’s critical for well-being, either for others or for yourself. Are you contributing to the essential activities of the earth or adding to them in a positive way?

4. Find a tree and look at it for a long time

If you’re not in downtown San Francisco and have no idea what the places I just named are, go back and reconnect with nature, then extrapolate out and see the bigger picture. How can you be like that tree, fulfiling your purpose every day, during the day, and not relegating it to the nights and weekeneds. When you figure that out, please please please let me know how you’re doing it.

For more on finding your purpose and doing what you love, see “How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love” from brainpickings.org, Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, and Stop Everything and Think about This by yours truly. 

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