Almost 25 years ago, my wife and I went on a wonderful trip to Aruba (This was before I knew that she was going to be my wife. SHE knew it. I just didn’t). Living on the adventurous side of the “life fence”, we decided to try out scuba diving. The excursion offered a one-hour training session at a hotel pool followed by a one-hour dive to a sunken WWII fighter plane 40 feet down and about a couple of miles off of the coast. We had been to Jamaica the year before for a week and snorkeled every single day. Diving was the next logical step for two people that loved the spectacular beauty of marine life so when we got to Aruba, the first thing that I did was book our dive excursion.
After our training session in the pool we both felt confident and were both very excited. We boarded the boat and a short 15 minutes later, we were at the dive site. We put our wet suits on and then donned our oxygen tanks, weight belts and masks. The dive was led by our divemaster, Ryan, and we were instructed to always keep him in sight and descend only by using the bright yellow rope that was tossed over the side of the boat and ended about 10 feet above the submerged airplane. I flung myself backwards off of the side of the boat and so did my lovely girlfriend. Once in the water we swam over to Ryan, put our oxygen regulators in our mouths and started our descent down the yellow rope. We had been told that as we went deeper that the pressure of water would plug our ears up and we were taught the standard method of rectifying this. Pinching our noses and blowing would do it. I was first down the rope and my woman was behind me. The divemaster was with her as I slowly and bravely traveled down that fluorescent wire and all was going as planned. This didn’t last. Ryan came to check on me after spending a good 4 minutes or so with her. I pointed to my girl and motioned with my hand to ask if she was okay. Instead of giving me the “thumbs up” that was to signal that all was fine, he gave me the side to side hand movement that meant that she was just “okay”.
Turns out that as we went deeper, she had problems equalizing her ears. From the moment of seeing the divemaster signal that this woman that had these parents that did not fully trust me yet and that were expecting me to bring their daughter home intact, I started breathing harder. And harder. We made it down to the airplane. My girl finally got her ears right. We stood on the wing of a submerged, 40’ deep Grumman Hellcat. But…I had used all of my oxygen in 30 minutes of what was supposed to be an hour long dive. There were 16 other divers on this trip but, because of me and my stress, we all had our beautiful experiences cut in half. The other divers were none too thrilled to find out why they didn’t get their full $85 worth because of the one panic-stricken young man that wanted to keep his new love alive.
“So how does this story of a mishap in a tropical paradise affect me?”, you might ask.
Waking up to hearing our televisions insisting that there is no end to this new and horrific “science fiction turned reality” COVID-19 pandemic and then going to our phones and seeing our timelines peppered with friends in mourning can certainly start our days off poorly. What’s more is that leading public health organizations are now beginning to study how too much media exposure, both traditional as well as social, can actually lead to mental health issues that go beyond “having a bad day”.
It is almost unfair that while we are on lockdown and are even more reliant on our iPads and our iPhones that these devices can actually do us more harm than good. But, luckily, there are some quick and easy ways to prevent looking at your television or phone from becoming overwhelmingly stressful.
You need information but it might not be what you need first thing in the morning from your television. Instead of turning on CNN with your morning coffee, try something light like your favorite syndicated cop show. Even watching some fictional husband trying to get away with murdering his entire family may be less stressful than watching an actual family in Pennsylvania all perish from coronavirus. Maybe even get lighter still with watching a game show? “Let’s Make a Deal” is alive and kicking and Wayne Brady is in truly one of his comedic natural elements in this forum.
Try having your “pocket computer” (aka: Your Samsung Galaxy S8) entertain you without going to Facebook or Twitter. Believe it or not, there are still fun and entertaining things to do on your phone that don’t involve scrolling through your friends’ life stories. Sure, we like to stay connected but, nowadays, realize that being connected can dramatically alter your mood for the worse. A post about a distant friend’s loss or health struggle doesn’t always have to be known. The truth is that if someone is truly close enough to you to affect your life by their tribulations, you would know about their struggles independent of their Facebook story. So give your brain a break from the constant stream of sadness of a hundred other people that you would never see in “real life”.
Picture it….. Being on an island that was never too hot nor too cold, trying new dishes, riding a Vespa around and parking it right at the table in a seaside restaurant with my “last love” was a truly wonderful experience and doing something that only one percent of the population, like scuba diving for the first time, was a once in a lifetime occurrence. Well, I blew it because of stress. The rest of my day on Aruba was ruined because I kept thinking about how my fun should have lasted longer and I felt guilty about the bad day that people that I barely knew were having.
Your life is Aruba. Today is your first scuba dive. Don’t run out of air because of stress and, by no means should you let your phone be the reason that your oxygen supply is cut in half today.
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