Performance anxiety is a beast my clients present with often.
They have no problem showing up with their A game in practice but when it comes time to make it count on race day they fall flat.
It’s fair to say they psych themselves out.
I was giving a session on the weekend and one of the coaches told me about one of the racers going through major performance anxiety last year. The poor kid couldn’t eat for days before a race and was a mess. Needless to say he couldn’t pull it together on race day.
He’s made quite the turnaround this season and is on the podium at just about every race.
Some mental preparation can help when performance anxiety strikes.
Here are three mental strategies to help you get back to your A game:
Breathing. Sounds odd because it’s something we naturally do without thinking about it. The difference is now I want you to think about it. Practice belly breaths. Send your breath past your lungs to your belly. Feel your belly go out when you inhale and come in when you exhale. Try and extend the breath for as long as you can. Play with it and see where it takes you. Guaranteed you will feel more calm and relaxed because of it.
Imagery. I’ve spoken about it here before. It’s such a powerful tool and it has such an impact on performance. Seeing yourself going through the motions of your athletic performance has far reaching benefits. The ski coaches I work with have taken to timing their ski racers to see how long it takes them to run the course through their minds. They are trying to get them to be mindful of time. You want your imagery in this instance to take as much time as it would to run the course.
Feelings. Think about how you want to feel when you’re engaged in your best performances. If you’re a ski racer I’m willing to bet fast is one of them. Once you’ve identified some feelings integrate them into your imagery. Really feel the feeling with every fiber of your being as you’re engaged in your imagery. Run your imagery with how you want to feel and see where it takes you.
Use these tools. Practice them and with time they will become second nature.
These tools are just as useful in sport as they are in life. Whether it be at school or on the job. A little positive imagery before a test or presentation can go a long way to a better outcome.