Diving is one of my favorite activities, but even I get nervous when I am not prepared. I have put together some of the things that make, at least for me, a solid base for a successful dive. I am sure others have their routines they go through, and I would love to hear about them. Please post if you have something you always do, aside from the regular checks that help make your dive a great one. Follow me at @icantfindmarta, on Facebook or check out my podcasts on the Epicast TV.
NO CAFFEINE- Usually, you wake up pretty early to go diving, and if you didn't get a good night sleep, you will be tired and cranky. For me, I have to resist that morning espresso. I had one once before I went diving, not thinking it would effect me, but my nerves were shot, and I was shaky. My buoyancy was terrible, and I was breathing more rapidly, and shallow under the water. I knew it was because my heart rate was elevated from the espresso I had hours ago. It kicked in when I needed it LEAST. A great learning lesson for me, and I suggest you try it if you are prone to get nervous on your dives. Wait until after you get back to the dock to enjoy that cup of Jo! Try an herbal tea in the morning instead.
MEDITATE- Everyone, whether they know it or not, practices some sort of meditation. It could be going to church, having that quiet moment with a cup of tea, or simply closing your eyes for a few minutes. For me, it is essential to start my day on the day of a dive with a good meditation. My husband and I practice TM Transcendental Meditation. Ever since starting the classes, our dives have been much smoother. Phil didn't take to diving as easily, was always very nervous, so it is great to see something have success in his overall state of mind going into a dive. It made a significant difference. Ifyou are saying to yourself, it is too early, there is no time, I don't know how to mediate. These are not true. Try it on the boat ride out to the site. It doesn't have to be a guided meditation, and you do not have to take a class to do it. Just sit quietly for a few minutes, and try to clear your mind. Breathe evenly in long breathes, and focus on something, a tree perhaps. Try it before your next dive, and I bet you will see a difference.
DON'T RUSH- On dive boats, everything is calm until the exact moment where it is time to get in the water. It always seems like a scramble, or race at the very end. Do not play into this race. Prepare your ITEMS to be easily within reach of you when you first get on the boat. That way they are nearby, and when it comes time to get your gear ready, take your time. There is nothing worse than getting worked up right before you jump into the water. A good Dive Master will not rush you, but I have had some that have, and it made for a very nervous crew, that some almost weren't able to descend because their heart rate was up, and they couldn't calm down. Do not be rushed by anyone, if they give you a hard time about it, ignore them. You would rather take a few extra seconds to make sure all of your gear is in place, then have something happen that will effect your dive in a negative way. Relax, in a few moments you will be calmly floating under the water.
EAT RIGHT AND HYDRATE- It has taken me awhile to find the perfect BALANCE of morning foods that will work well with diving. Some foods are too greasy, and can cause me to be a bit nauseous. (Not to mention worry that I may have to #2 on the boat, the terror!!!) Some foods are too high in carbs and feel like a tons of bricks in my stomach. (Maybe 2 bagels with ham and cheese wasn't the best choice this morning) Bananas are my to go choice for diving. They bind your stomach, fill you up, and add vitamins to help you keep hydrated and focused such as potassium, manganese, Vitamin C, B6, Folate. I usually eat two because one is not enough to keep me sated. If you need a larger breakfast in the morning, pair with a piece of toast. For after the dive, I always bring a snack, usually a granola bar will do the trick, or a fresh piece of fruit to clear your mouth from the salt. Another tip is to make sure you have a drink of water right before you put your mask on. Your mouth will get dry quickly, it is refreshing and hydrating to take a quick sip before your dive.
BREATHE THROUGH YOUR MOUTH- Think of how you are breathing reading this, it is probably through your nose. 90% of our lives we breathe through our nose, unless we are completely congested. While diving, you train yourself to breathe through your mouth. You are probably thinking that this seems a relatively easy thing to do, but being faced with it after not having done it for awhile can be a shock to your system. You will fight it because your are not used to it, and it will make you nervous. I live in Pittsburgh, and do not get to dive often enough to practice these skills constantly. So I started practicing on the boat ride out to my next diving destination completely breathing through my mouth the whole ride out. It made a WORLD of a difference in my diving, I was prepared for when my nose was in the mask, I didn't have that rush of panic that comes when your brain triggers that you can't breathe. It HELPED me immensely, and I hope you try it on you next dive. If this doesn't convince you, it is stated that you can lower your heart rate simply breathing long, deep breathes through your mouth!