You often see athletes at all levels of play preparing mentally before the game. Some of it is relaxing techniques, some is visualization exercises....whatever techniques are used it is about the player "getting his head into the game". If an athlete is thinking of other things other than the game they generally don't perform very well. It is no different in scuba diving. The big difference is that in a game it might mean dropping a ball, missing the shot or striking out. For the diver it may simply be a matter of a fun dive or a not so fun dive.....or it might mean your very survival.
What we learn in every diving class we take, are skills that will help us deal with any of the "what ifs" that can happen to a diver once they are under the water. But to deal with those "what ifs" only having read about it in a book and practiced a few times is no where near enough.
When a stressful situation occurs you need to be able to think clearly. If you can't think clearly you panic....panic leads to disaster In order not to panic you need to have the knowledge and have practiced your skills over and over again until they are second nature...or even better, instinctive. The mental attitude, the knowledge and the practice will help you to function effectively and make the correct decisions that will help you deal with stressful situations underwater.
So how do we as divers get our heads in the game? It starts when we choose a dive buddy and dive site. Have we selected a buddy with similar skills, experience and interests? Have we selected a site that is equal to the level of our skills and training? Is our equipment in good repair?
At the dive site, come armed with all the information you can find from local dive shops. If you are on a charter, pay close attention to everything the divemaster is telling you in the briefing. Take a few minutes before gearing up to visualize your dive....a good comfortable descent.....a slow safe dive.....a slow ascent. Think about the things you have been told about the dive site and imagine yourself diving the sight. Relax, check your breathing. Check your equipment and take your time suiting up. Don't let anyone rush you. Do your safety checks....enjoy your dive. The more relaxed you are getting into the water, the more you will enjoy your dive.
And always remember....YOU and only YOU are in control of your dive. If you have ANY reason that you don't feel like you should dive....DON'T. The rule is: you can cancel a dive, at any time, for any reason and you don't owe ANYONE an explanation. If your head isn't in the game, don't do the dive.