Performance anxiety can happen anywhere and for any reason. It’s the stress we heap on ourselves to be the best at everything. You may have had a previous unpleasant experience that is in the back of your mind and is very bothersome, or you’re dreading this event for some reason. It’s our mind’s way of defending us from harm or anything less than what we want to happen. In some cases, you may even be as worried about success as you are about failure. Our minds are powerful weapons that may sometimes play tricks on us, so it’s up to us to maintain a positive focus and conquer any fears we may have about performing well. It’s entirely natural to feel concerned about envy, rejection, disapproval, being abandoned or harmed; our instincts help to protect us from those things in many cases. But, you’ve heard the adage, “no risk, no return!” So, let’s train our minds to be brave and go for the gusto when we’re playing our favorite sports!
Keys to Control
It sounds much more comfortable than it is; however, the number one key to controlling what we fear is to remain calm! Get your mind into a prepared state and give any self-defeating thoughts or images the boot. If you have past negative experiences, set them free from your mind and remain laser-focused on the matter at hand with a calm demeanor. You can’t change what happened, but by making your mind see the positive in this current event, you can kick fears right out of the park! And this is the case in any sport that you play.
It’s a lot like visualization with a few nuances. Sit in a comfy chair in a place where you are alone and quiet. Feet and arms should remain uncrossed and your eyes closed. Pick an item to concentrate on, if you want to keep your eyes open, select an article on the wall or in the room and focus only on that single thing. If your eyes are closed focus on your stomach or chest breathing in and out. The point is to clear your mind of other distractions. If you catch your mind wandering, gently urge your mind back to your focal point. Now, just visualize the best possible scenario in your sport, (and this works in any aspect of your life). Now, what variables or obstacles are in the way that may prevent you from achieving your goal? Defenders, hills, a long swim a pitcher who aims to strike you out, no matter what the obstacles are, remove them in any way you can. Replace any negative thought with a positive one. For example, if you’re thinking, “I just can’t go any further” turn it around and say, “I’ve trained well, I feel good, and I can do this.” It’s reasonable logic, and you are giving yourself positive reinforcement, just like your trainer would if he/she were in your head. It’s not aeronautical engineering; it’s just a matter of mind over matter.
Added Tips for Success
- Keep the focus on you and your job. Don’t compare yourself to others, just do your job the best way you can.
- If you find your mind wandering into past situations, come back to the present. Focus on now.
- It’s okay to leave your goals at home. If you have been visualizing a stellar performance, great. But, at game time, just focus on doing the job well.
- Many athletes report they focus on distractions both before and after the game. Play a mindless game, listen to music, anything that keeps your mind off the impending event.
- Don’t fret over the things you can’t control like inclimate weather, actions of other people or the fact that the ball took a bad bounce. Study the things within your control that is the best you can do.
- Have fun! If you’re always pressing and putting pressure on yourself to always be at your peak performance, it’s not going to be fun, and you end up stressed and unhappy.
Finally, anxiety is normal, and it can also be a motivator. What you need to avoid is allowing it to adversely impact your level of performance. You have probably done everything possible to ensure you are ready for the upcoming event, so give yourself a break and let your positive karma take over and lead you through the game smoothly and at your best performance level.
Before the event, remember it’s okay to be a little anxious, during the game, wear a smile and play like you don’t care about the outcome. After the event focus on what you did well, and how you can improve in the next game, and set your training goals accordingly.
Have you suffered from performance anxiety? Tell us about your experience and how you overcame it to play the game of your life! Don’t let your mind freak you out, let your body do what you have trained it to do, and everything can turn out wonderfully