11 best scuba diving tips for nervous divers – become a confident scuba woman

Grow into a confident scuba woman leaving behind nerves and dive anxiety with my 11 scuba diving tips for nervous scuba divers.

Scuba diving transports scuba divers to an underwater world with endless, everchanging seascapes and vistas. Exploring and interacting with diverse flora and fauna divers are weightless, ebbing, and flowing with the current.  Diving is an enjoyable and exhilarating adventure, peaceful in a subaquatic world…..

But what if it’s not?

What if scuba dives cause anxiety and stress? Learn practical strategies to avoid anxiety underwater, as I step through useful tips to help you become a confident scuba woman.

{Disclaimer:- I may earn a small commission as an affiliate for some of the products mentioned. For others, I may not; these are businesses that I genuinely believe in, creating a good product while helping save our planet. Did you know Amazon requires their sellers to wrap products in plastic?}

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Are you an anxious scuba diver?

Feeling powerless and incapable underwater is terrifying. Immersed at depth, engulfed by the ocean, struggling for breath, claustrophobia, fear of sharks. It can be overwhelming. Anxiety when diving can happen at any time for many reasons. Being prepared helps divers overcome nerves and rejoice in their scuba experience.

Panic attacks on land are no fun and even scarier underwater. Sometimes dives can be challenging, or scuba divers are simply uncomfortable or nervous and panic. Physical symptoms, nerves, and anxiety lead divers to question their own ability and dive skills. Acknowledge your feelings and fears and follow my tips to become a confident scuba woman.

A scuba woman next to huge gorgonian fans underwater
Overcome nerves and become a confident scuba woman & be amazed

Disclaimer: Please note I am not a medical professional. I have collated these tips through personal experience as a scuba woman who has suffered from anxiety and nerves before, during, and after dives. I am sharing the following tips as they have worked for me making my diving experience a joy. Please seek medical advice for your own situation. 

SHOP PELA

Anxious diver to confident scuba woman

Nerves are normal when scuba diving. For a special few, it is natural to breathe underwater; for most new divers, it is challenging. Being part of the underwater world is a fantastic incentive to overcome nerves. Recognizing and accepting your anxiety enables you to take steps to overcome any fears. Know what makes you anxious, think about it rationally, and plan your responses. Learn about the marine animals you are visiting to lessen the fear. Being a strategic diver helps to overcome anxiety.

Tip 1 – Dive with someone you trust

Feeling safe and in good hands will reduce dive anxiety immeasurably. Find a reputable dive center that maintains their gear, will listen to your fears, and, most importantly, keep you safe. Research and find a well thought of dive center. Facebook dive groups can be a great source of information and recommendations.  TripAdvisor and Google reviews are also an excellent way to find trustworthy, capable, and friendly dive companies.

A good dive company will have knowledgeable staff, good dive instructors, offer help and advice, check gear, and share local knowledge, making the day diving fun and exciting – a memorable experience.

Scuba divers (3) underwater
Note the colour of your buddy’s fins

It is also essential to trust your dive buddy. Ultimately, they are who you will be relying on. I have buoyancy issues and get nervous that I will float to the surface on the safety stop.  Talking this fear through with my buddy and recognizing the cause of my anxiety allowed us to formulate a plan. In this instance, we devised 4 different strategies.  

1/- Perform the safety stop on a mooring line

2/- Signal to my buddy I was having issues and hold their hand

3/- Signal to my buddy and they would provide me with an extra weight

4/ – I would use my dump valve to release any trapped air from my BCD

Discussing concerns before diving and formulating action plans to overcome any problems will help relieve anxiety. This way, your buddy has your back; you know you can signal them and put a plan in place.

Female and male scuba divers hugging underwater
Trust your buddy

Dive with a guide. A guide dives the area regularly and will know where to find all the cool stuff and be aware of currents and how to work with them.  Let them use their local knowledge and follow along and enjoy the dive.  Not worrying about getting lost or current relieves a lot of anxiety. Communicate any potential concerns with your guide pre-dive so they can help you manage them. 

Tip 2 Communicate early and often

Communicating early and often can relieve nerves and reduce anxiety. If something isn’t feeling right, or you are suffering from anxiety or nerves, sharing with your buddy early alerts them and allows you to relax a little.

Scuba diver signaling ok
Know your hand signals

I had an instance where the current was strong, and I was out of breath trying to keep up. I signaled my buddy before I began to panic. They, in turn, signaled for me to drop a couple of meters in the water column where the current wasn’t as strong. A potentially dangerous situation was avoided. I regained control of my breathing and anxiety. Communicating early means potential issues can be recognized and averted, making you a more confident scuba woman.

Know your hand signals and communicate confidently with your buddy and guide.  Sometimes we make up our own if there is a particular concern. Knowing you are understood underwater helps relieve nerves.

Tip 3 – Understand the dive briefing

Know the dive site, where you are going, and what you will likely encounter. Know what to do if you get separated.  Know the approximate dive time and when the dive will turn, what to do if you experience strong currents, etc. Knowledge helps to alleviate anxiety. 

Ask questions and raise concerns.  When I dived Wolf Rock, the dive briefing was daunting, and I was nervous about the current and having to “claw” my way over the rock.  I voiced my concerns to our guide, and when we reached Wolf Rock, she went with me and demonstrated what I needed to do.  It gave me the confidence to enjoy one of my best dives. Ask questions if you are unsure of anything.

Dive plan for Lighthouse Bommie
Know the dive plan and dive it

To reduce nerves when diving remember the motto “know the dive plan, dive the dive plan.”

This is an excellent opportunity to use your logbook and turn it into a dive guide for yourself. Include all the amazing marine life you will see, and also note the thickness of your wetsuit, weights used, and conditions. Record your reactions throughout the dive, and use your notes to improve subsequential dives. What could you have done better in a particular situation? Write down any tips you have received. Every dive, I learn something new and apply it to the next dive.

SHOP PELA

Tip 5 – Mask is clear, comfortable, & leak-free.

Being able to see through your mask alleviates a lot of anxiety. If you only buy one piece of dive equipment, get yourself a well-fitting scuba mask. Defog your mask. Once in the ocean, I put my face into the water to ensure my mask isn’t leaking or fogging up. I often glimpse the bottom, and excitement overcomes any nerves. Not being able to see out of your mask clearly can be stressful. You may simply spit into your mask, rub it around and rinse with water, but nerves tend to cause a dry mouth. Make anti-fog part of your dive gear, or diluted baby shampoo works well. Get your buddy to check for stray hairs caught in the mask before entering the water.

A dive mask being held, surronded by dive equipment
A well fitting mask is essential

When learning to dive in open water, one of the skills is taking off your mask underwater. It terrified me. I spent a sleepless night worrying about performing the skill. Taking off my mask in my mind equated with me not being able to breathe underwater; it was an irrational fear but a very real one. Rationalizing my trepidation helped – I knew I could still breathe through the regulator. Performing the skill for the first time, I was still nervous but overcame my terror. I completed the skill without issue.

Tip 6 – Take your time – be comfortable.

Typically, there is not much room on a dive boat, divers get ready at different paces, and it can feel rushed and chaotic.  Take your time, be the last in the water and complete your PADI Buddy Check with your buddy.  I get them to check there is no hair in my mask, and I ensure everything is comfortable. When I first learned to dive, I tried to keep up and often got into the water feeling flustered and unprepared. I now go at my own pace and do not get into the water until I feel ready.  I always get the divemaster to double-check everything.  It makes me feel more secure. I always complete a buddy check – sometimes twice. Establish a routine that soothes any nerves and stay with it.  Remind yourself as a scuba diver; you are here to enjoy the experience.

A row of scuba gear on a dive boat
Take time setting up, be comfortable and complete a buddy check

Know the color of your buddys’ snorkel, wetsuit, and fins, so there is no confusion underwater. If there is a guide, check out their dive gear as well.

Buddy Check Review – B.W.R.A.F.- Big Whales Rule All Fish

  • Buoyancy/BCD
  • Weights
  • Releases
  • Air sources
  • Final check, fins/mask

Tip 7 – Complete a buoyancy check.

Having correct buoyancy makes a massive difference to a diving experience. By completing a buoyancy check, weights can be adjusted, helping to establish neutral buoyancy, benefitting your dive and relieving anxiety immeasurably.

Control buoyancy with your breath. Long, steady inhales and exhales help you move through the water columns. Long, deep breathing aids in relaxing you. Try to keep your hands clasped in front to resist the temptation of using them to control your buoyancy.  As an added bonus, you will look and feel like a “scuba diver,” which will help relieve anxiety.

Tip 8 – Breathe and relax

Check your air gauge regularly to relieve anxiety.  I keep my air gauge tucked inside my BCD, so I know where it is at all times. I am pretty good on-air but like to know I have more than enough. Know how long the dive will be and communicate with your buddy. Be aware of your air and your buddys’. Check the bar after your descent and then regularly thereafter. Performing a controlled descent will help conserve air. Look at your gauge and computer regularly and note air consumption in your logbook. Know what your bar should be at different stages of the dive. It helps to know you are on track, relieving nerves. Alternatively, you may shorten the dive, steady breathing, or rise in the water column to conserve air and keep nerves away if you use more air than usual. Being in control of the dive brings confidence.

A diver deep underwater with a torch
Steady, calming, rhythmic breaths

It sounds contradictory, but long, steady breaths use less air than short, shallow breaths.  More importantly, big breaths keep your body oxygenated and help calm you. Being nervous and overexerting yourself will use more air. Think of diving as a meditation – find your zen and enjoy the underwater world.

Tip 9 – Be Dive Healthy – know your limits & practice

Know your limits. There’s a difference between pushing boundaries and being out of your depth. Bring some skills into your daily life that will benefit your scuba life and help avoid diver panic.

Meditation benefits all aspects of everyday life. Diving is likened to underwater meditation. Develop a healthy, confident mindset. Start doing deep breathing through your mouth before diving. Practice skills – the safety stop is a great chance to improve buoyancy and remove your mask in safe conditions.

Ladies silhouette doing a a sitting yoga pose on a beach at sunset
Dive health will reduce anxiety

Dive health is essential. Breathe, stay hydrated, and have something in your stomach. Avoid indigestion or bloating by not overindulging before a dive. Stretch, be excited, feel good preparing for a dive. Adopt a healthier lifestyle, establish an exercise routine and eat cleanly. Being healthy is a win in all areas of your life.

Take a motion sickness tablet before going onto the boat. Feeling seasick will not help your nerves. Be aware of your body temperature. If it’s a hot day, do not put your wetsuit on too early or put it half on. If diving in cold water stay warm. Layer your dive gear, bring a hot drink, and wear dry clothes on the surface break in cold weather. I use an excellent chill-proof jacket during the surface break and wear a beanie and gloves. I am not the most glamorous of divers, but I am warm.

Tip 10 – Use your own scuba gear

Where possible, always use your own scuba diving gear. This will help eliminate an element of uncertainty when diving.  I bought my own dive gear very early on and believe it has been a good investment.  It bulks out your luggage a little, but well worth it.  My major anxiety issues have been related with buoyancy and everytime I have had hire gear.  I like to know my dive mask won’t leak, my fins are comfortable and I can regulate my BCD.

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I always dive with reputable dive companies but I still like the added reassurance that I know my dive gear is in good working order.

I would prioritize an excellent fitting mask, followed by fins, computer, BCD, and regulator. Prescription masks are also available if needed. I think I am heading that way soon.

Tip 11 – Dive often

The more you practice these tips and tricks, the better you’ll get at managing scuba diving anxiety. Liveaboards are a great way to relieve anxiety when diving. Choose a destination that is easy to dive. Diving 3 or 4 times a day in the same scenario and surrounded by experienced divers builds confidence. There is a mooring line to use, enabling you to practice your buoyancy, descents, and ascents. I love liveaboards; all you have to think about is diving, eating, and sleeping. They often throw in a guide who can also help you tweak your skills.

Diving connects you intimately with nature. Remember, we are lucky to be divers and experience our lakes and oceans and their wonderful environments. Take a feeling of gratitude with you every time you dive and enjoy the dive; it really is a privilege.

It’s never too late -TAKE THE DIVE WITH TANYA – Helping women dive with confidence

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Published by emptynestdiver

Learning to dive in my fifties has been a great adventure, I am a senior scuba diver but young at heart.

2 thoughts on “11 best scuba diving tips for nervous divers – become a confident scuba woman

  1. I am so happy to have found your blog! I am 66 and was an avid diver in the mid- late 80’s but have not been diving in 32 years!

    I always loved it and was/am certified in AOW, wrecks, caves and deep water. I am have now completed a refresher review and my pool work is on Sunday.

    Looking forward to my “ re-entry” into open water! Nervous, excited but can’t wait 😎 looking forward to reading more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good on you, I think you will be very happy that you are once again an active scuba diver. I truly believe it keeps me young mentally and physically, not to mention all the beauty we get to see.

      Like

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