Learn how to overcome performance anxiety and perform at your best.
We’ve all been there: you’re getting ready to compete and all of a sudden you start having negative thoughts, feelings of self-doubt, butterflies, or sweaty palms. You’ve worked hard to prepare for this competition, so why are you feeling like this?
The first thing to recognize is that feelings of nervousness and anxiety are completely normal. Your teammates, coaches, and even the pros experience it. However, in a high-competition field, one thing that can separate you from everyone else is how well you can conquer your nerves.
You also experience these feelings for a reason. The human brain has evolved to respond to perceived threats, such as not meeting the game day goal, in order to protect ourselves. Our brain also has a very active imagination that can cause us to start spiraling out of control, however, we can use that imagination to our advantage instead (more on that in a minute).
Feelings of nervousness can be very distracting for your performance. One way you can overcome competition anxiety is with problem-focused coping. This means you look for practical ways to reduce your nerves. Here are 3 ways you can focus on the problem:
Preparation is a key piece to reducing your nerves before you compete. You can prepare by having a game day routine, practicing a skill correctly, or practice in the same conditions as your competition. Take a listen to our podcast episode on preparation our pros made just for you!
Take some time to identify when, why, and how you experience your anxiety. You can only address your nerves when you know how they hit you. Knowing when you get nervous, why you get nervous, and how you are when you’re nervous will help you make a game plan to cope with performance anxiety.
- Time Management
Our stress can often pile up on top of each other. Between school and sports, student-athletes are juggling many things at once. Managing your time well can help you reduce unnecessary stressors and give your brain more room to conquer your nerves.
Remember how we said you can use your brain’s imagination to overcome your nerves? Your brain is a powerful tool- use it to your advantage! Here are 3 mental skills you can practice using your brain’s imagination to keep nerves at bay.
Shut-down those negative thoughts by reframing them. When a negative thought crosses your mind, visualize a STOP sign to stop the thought and reframe in a different way. With practice, the thought: “I’ll never reach my goal this season,” turns into: “Every day I get closer to my goal. I have already made a lot of progress and will continue to get better.”
- Sports Imagery Training (Visualization)
Spend time visualizing successful, confident, and realistic performances. Going into competition when you have already mentally been there will help you feel ready to perform and crush your nerves. Check out this blog with more details.
Focus on your breath when you start getting nervous. Anxiety causes more tension in your body, which increases risk of injury and decreases focus. Practice breathing in for 3 seconds and out for 6 seconds to relax your body, lower your heart rate, and clear your mind.
Practicing just one of these tips will help you conquer your nerves on the field and in the classroom. All of these tips are more than sports skills, they are life skills you can take with you long after the game has ended.