The butterflies you feel before a big competition are natural -- anxiety about your performance and the outcome of the event demonstrates a high level of engagement. Channel this nervous energy appropriately and it can actually help you excel. Pregame rituals, imagery and breathing techniques can help you use your energy to your advantage.
Channel Positive Thoughts
Visualizing a positive outcome to your upcoming competition helps ease any pregame fears. During pre-event ceremonies, go over your strengths and picture yourself using these to your advantage. Focus on the training you've put in, knowing it has prepared you for success. Avoid dwelling on factors out of your control, such as the weather or the skills of the other competitors.
Create a Ritual
A ritual is quite personal; you have to find what works for you. It could involve laying out your clothes the night before the big game, having a certain breakfast and listening to a specific song just before the event. Your ritual might involve warm-up stretching or, if you prefer, sitting in meditation. Whatever you do, perform it before every competition. The familiarity of it will help calm you down when you get the jitters.
Yogic breathing, including ujjayi breath -- inhale deeply through your nose and out through your nose -- can help calm your central nervous system. A 2005 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a study noting that yogic breathing actually eases stress response systems in the body, bringing about a greater sense of calm. Practice calming breathing techniques regularly, just as you do your other sports skills, so you can call on them when you need them before an important event.
Huddle with your teammates to remind yourself that you're not in this alone. The solidarity of a group can do a lot to ease nerves. High-fives, pats on the back and a team chant can be energizing and reassuring. If you're in a solo sport, recruit a mentor, coach, family member or friend to give you a pep talk before you compete.
- FourFourTwo Performance: Shake Off Those Pre-Game Nerves
- Teens Health: 5 Ways to Beat Pre-performance Nerves
- Stack: Overcoming Pre-Game Nerves
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part I-neurophysiologic Model
- Photo Credit Jani Bryson/iStock/Getty Images
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