Here are a few suggestions:
1. Practice relaxation techniques. To avoid feeling overwhelmed or panicked by fear of swimming, practice deep breathing or other physical relaxation techniques before attempting to get into the water. Relaxation will reduce your fears and make you more receptive to learning and coaching. Practice with friends. Whether you're taking swimming lessons or studying independently, learning to swim with a trusted friend can reduce your stress and make you more comfortable.
2. Start in shallow water. Practice in the water shallow enough that you can easily touch your feet to the floor without submerging your neck or head, which will help you feel safe as you learn the basics of swimming. If you feel scared, just stand up, take a deep breath, and relax.
3. Immerse your legs in the water. Sitting on the edge of the pool, rocking your legs, and taking a moment to feel the water will help your confidence.
4. Gradually enter the water. If you have a ladder, step into the water one step at a time, spending as much time as you can to feel comfortable and safe. Once you get to the pool, take a moment to take a deep breath and relax.
5. Practice flooding your face. One of the biggest hurdles for many early swimmers to overcome is the fear of submerging their faces and heads. Start by splashing water on your face as if you were washing your face. Once you're ready, practice deep breathing and then squat down to cover your face as much as possible. Keep practicing, submerging more and more of the face until your entire head is insufficient.
6. Practice floating. Now that you can submerge your face and head, you can try floating. Most people are naturally buoyant, so while it may seem like a challenge, there really isn't much that can be done! Simply place your face in the water as you would practice, then let one of your legs, then the other, relax off the pool floor and stretch your arms above the water. When you are ready to stand again, calmly lower your legs to the floor.
Once you are more comfortable and confident with the water, you can start learning to swim.
Professional instruction is a great option for those who are afraid of swimming because fear of swimming is so common that beginner swimming lessons for adults are widely available.