Nervous before scuba diving, what should I do?

It is not unusual to be nervous before scuba diving, especially if you are new or just learning. It can also happen if you’ve had a break or are taking on a new challenge. Being excited, nervous or apprehensive about a dive can sometimes feel a bit much, and you just want to calm yourself and get in the right mindset to enjoy the dive, but how?

7 options for when you are nervous before scuba diving

Identify your concerns and address the issues making you nervous before scuba diving

Are you nervous for a good reason? Listen to your gut, it may be its getting things all out of proportion … or it could be trying to tell you something. Check out the dive plan, the safety procedures and risk assess. If you are not okay with it, consider sitting out the dive.

Check that you are ready for this specific dive

Dives can be very different! Not everyone wants to do the same type of diving. Conditions can really vary. Deep wall dive sites, wrecks and caves have different hazards to sloping, shallow dive sites. Water movement and visibility can really change a dive from beginner to expert level. There are lots of skills and experience to gather in diving. You will feel less nervous if you choose dive sites that are suitable to your current level.

Being a little nervous is not the same as panicking, but ending up in a situation way beyond your skill level can be a risk factor. There is more about diver anxiety and panic available on the main site:

Talk to your guide or instructor

If you let your guide or instructor know how you feel, most likely they can help. They can give you information about what to expect on the dive. They may be able to make adjustments to the dive plan or change buddy teams. If they know you there is something you struggle with they may be able to support you.

Focus on preparation

Nervous energy can be used. You could use it to fuel worry and rumination … or you could use it to get ready for the dive. Set up your equipment, check it is all working, pay attention to the briefing and talk to your buddy about the dive plan. Doing these things effectively means not only do you have less time to be nervous before scuba diving, it will also mean you are better prepared and increasing real safety.

Visualise the dive and skills you need

Visualising and mentally rehearsing an event is one of the few techniques that has been shown to be useful in addressing pre-dive anxiety. If done properly, it also has the added bonus of improving your performance of skills! You can even do this the day before the dive.

Stop and get present

If you are nervous before scuba diving it is quite likely that your mind starts showing you scary things! This is what minds do. It will dredge up every bad memory you have relating to diving, whether that is real or just random scenes from Jaws! None of that is useful. Instead, keep focusing on what you are doing, whether that is putting your kit together, staring at the horizon or talking to a buddy.

Connect with your buddy or the group

One of the single most effective ways we can be calmed is by connecting with other people. Even if it is just starting a conversation with a buddy about their favorite dive trip, it means we feel part of the group and that increases our perceived sense of safety.

Something to be cautious of if you are nervous before scuba diving

Intense nerves do not feel pleasant. So it’s natural to want to get rid of them. But some of the ways we do that may not go well with diving. Be a little cautious about getting lost in a meditation app, or zoning out with music. Numbing out, distracting or self-medicating can all reduce that nervous agitation and make us feel a bit better, but they can potentially have an impact on our skills and ability to make decisions about what we will do.

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Two scuba diver with the anchor robe