From fast-drift dives to going under the ice, Simon Pridmore, author of Scuba Fundamental – “Start Diving the Right Way”, offloads eight tips to getting mentally prepared before a dive:
During a scuba dive you are immersed in water – an alien environment – relying on your equipment, skills and knowledge to keep you alive. But an equally important tool that you can use to ensure that you make the most of the experience and stay safe is your attitude, your state of mind, something we can refer to as your mental conditioning. Your mental conditioning determines the level of your performance in any sport and scuba diving is no exception. We should not underestimate the degree to which our thoughts and moods affect our performance, the level of enjoyment we derive from an activity and how well we deal with the stress of an emergency.
Here are eight ways to get mentally prepared for diving:
Improve your Skills
Practice your self-rescue skills to the point where they can be performed automatically, so you know that in an emergency you will not have to think about the correct thing to do, you will just do it instinctively.
Build Water Confidence
Get more used to being surrounded by water, not just by doing more diving, although that is always a good idea. Go snorkelling, do some free-diving, swim more often, spend more time at a pool or the beach!
The tendency to panic on a scuba dive can be increased by a number of external factors, chief among which are fatigue, alcohol, cold and discomfort. So don’t drink and dive and make sure you wear enough thermal protection for the environment. Replace your wetsuit regularly; frequent exposure to pressure crushes neoprene, reducing its efficiency. A new suit does not only make you look better, it keeps you warmer.
You need to be physically fit for diving as well as mentally fit. The better your fitness, the better you will deal with the rigours of swimming against a current or making a difficult shore exit in full-gear. And the more efficiently you will breathe and the longer your air supply will last.
Correct breathing helps you keep a clear head if a potentially stressful incident arises. The ideal diving breathing cycle begins with a long exhalation with your stomach pulled in enabling your lungs to expel as much tension-inducing carbon dioxide as possible. Follow this immediately by a long sustained inhalation with your stomach pushed out to allow your lungs to expand as much as they can. With practice, each diving breath in and out could last 7 seconds or so, giving you a 15 second breathing cycle. That means only four breaths a minute! As well as helping you think clearly, this will make your air last longer too!
Before a scuba dive, do as the technical divers do. Sit in a quiet place and think about the dive ahead. Think positive thoughts; imagine all the wonderful things you are going to experience and picture a successful dive in your mind. See yourself early on as you descend, in control, checking all your gear is in place, relaxing your breathing rate, maintaining good buoyancy and staying in touch with your dive team. Then focus your thoughts on the dive itself. Visualise yourself feeling comfortable, checking your computer and SPG frequently, then making a slow, safe and controlled ascent with a safety stop, finally establishing buoyancy on the surface and ending the dive with plenty of air.
Apprehension is a feeling of uncertainty about your ability to cope with a situation and it can be dangerous to begin a dive in this state of mind, as it does not take much for the apprehension to turn into panic. By thinking during your visualisation about what could happen and how you would deal with it, you can build your self-confidence and approach the dive with a positive, relaxed attitude.
Take Notice of Premonition
Premonition is a powerful feeling of foreboding. If you ever get the sense before a dive that something bad is going to happen and you just cannot shake it off or you just feel that you are not ready or in the mood to do the dive, then strongly consider either sitting out the dive or at least changing the plan.
A Final Word
As long as you have been well taught for the level of diving that you are engaged in and have kept up your skills, then by maintaining a clear head and a positive state of mind you can be confident of dealing with any situation.
Simon is the best-selling author of Scuba Confidential – An Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Better Diver, Scuba Professional – Insights into Scuba Diver Training & Operations and Scuba Fundamental – Start Diving the Right Way. All are available from Amazon and other online bookstores worldwide. See his website www.simonpridmore.com for more.