7 Ways to Overcome Sports Performance Anxiety
Performance anxiety is typically triggered by a fixation or fear of the uncertainty of future events. It is extremely common for competitive athletes to experience performance anxiety, but learning how to resolve is often what separates an elite athlete from an average one. To help you conquer the pregame jitters once and for all, we’ve compiled a list of 7 effective methods to alleviate anxiety and help you perform at your best.
- Prepare - One of the most effective ways to neutralize nervous thoughts and emotions leading up to the big moment of game time is to simply show up well-prepared. Having confidence in your ability to perform starts with the assurance that you’ve prepared for every possible challenge
- Pregame Routine - Save yourself from overthinking on game day by having a plan. Developing a consistent pregame routine will help you tune out distractions and ensure you stay comfortable no matter the circumstances. Whether it’s a Home game or at a venue that’s halfway around the world, a good game day routine can Make Unfamiliar Environments Familiar and allow you to concentrate on what’s important. Take the time to figure out what routine works best for you and trust the process.
- Breathing Exercises - For many people, anxiety can cause both mental and physical sensations, but there are things you can do to take control of how you’re feeling. It starts with your Breathing.
Breathing is a fundamental part of the human experience, but there is a significant difference between Conscious Breathing and Unconscious Breathing. Conscious Breathing or Breath Control is a deliberate approach to maximizing the power of your respiratory system and it has been scientifically proven to improve human performance as well as your overall health and wellbeing. Breathing exercises are a powerful tool you can use to relieve performance anxiety. Check out these Deep Breathing Techniques and Exercises to learn how to use your breath to your advantage.
- Meditation - Meditation is the practice of channeling your thoughts and settling your mind so you can focus on the present moment. There are a lot of potential distractions that come with playing competitive sports and learning how to tune them out so you can focus on performing at your best is what separates good athletes from great ones. Meditation requires no fancy equipment - it’s something you can implement in any given situation at any time. In simplest form, all that you have to do to meditate is to find a quiet space where you feel you can concentrate on yourself. Close your eyes and direct your attention to the rhythm of your breath. When other thoughts start to drift into your mind, simply acknowledge them rather than holding on to them, and return your focus to your breath. By following this simple process for 12-15 minutes , you will become more mindful of your thoughts and feelings while calming yourself down as you prepare for the game. There are many resources available online that will help you strengthen your ability to meditate and learn how to make this skill work for you.
Visualization is the act of mentally rehearsing a successful performance prior to stepping out onto the playing surface. Research has shown that repeatedly visualizing the successful outcome of a sports performance has many of the same effects on the brain as the physical action of actually performing. Pregame visualization, which can serve as a form of meditation, is proven to help athletes increase focus, build confidence and reduce performance anxiety.
This simple 3-step process that we found on Sports MD provides some helpful tips on how to start using Visualization to prepare for competition:
- Include as many of your senses as possible in your visualization. As you imagine yourself scoring a goal or making the big play, what can you see, hear, touch, smell, taste… What does it really feel like? Studies have shown that visualization has a greater effect on the brain when sensory details are involved.
- Envision proper form and technique. In addition to sensory details, visualizing yourself performing ‘perfectly’ with respect to the vivid details of the action you seek to perform will better prepare you todo exactly that in real life.
- Practice and Repeat. The more you practice, the better you’ll be able to visualize and the greater effect it will have on your performance.
- Positive Self-Talk. Rather than allowing nervous thoughts and feelings to overwhelm you, find ways to coach yourself through them. Positive self-talk is essentially talking to yourself, internally or out loud, in a way that is intentionally optimistic. There are a wide range of studies that demonstrate the Power of Positivity, and one of the easiest ways to access this power for personal benefit is to speak it into existence. You can keep it simple by creating a list of self-affirmations in the form of words or phrases, or you can have an active conversation aloud to coach yourself through a challenge from start to finish.
Here are some helpful tips we found on Psychology Today to help you turn Positive Self-Talk into your secret weapon:
- Start Early -Younger athletes can experience an especially strong benefit from learning the skill of self-talk.
- Just (Tell Yourself You Can) Do It - This simple approach will ensure you’re not overthinking the task at hand while embracing a positive mindset that’s easily repeatable.
- For Complex Tasks, Talk Yourself Through It - Instructional self-talk can serve as a mental cue that helps align your brain activity with the rest of your body.
- Be Proactive- Before your negative inner voice even has a chance to creep in, implement a positive dialogue from the moment you start preparing for a game.
- Talk to Yourself in the 3rd Person - Brain-imaging studies have shown that talking to yourself in the third person activates brain areas that are involved in self-control more efficiently than if you talked in the first person.
- Practice Focusing Your Attention Most of the performance anxiety management techniques we’ve discussed here today are centered around focusing your attention in a more productive direction. Consider the fact that 90% of information processed by the human brain at any given time is Visual. Therefore, the ability to control your attention is predicated on controlling your visual system.
Following a consistent and personalized vision training program can help you gain a greater level of control of your visual system as well as sharpen the visual skills you rely on to perform. Check out our web-based vision training solution, The Edge Trainer, to start improving your visual attention and create your competitive edge.