Your Secret Weapon is Just a Breath Away

Are you having trouble managing anxiety? You’ve trained your body, but most athletes are missing this crucial step for a powerful breakthrough that’s right under their nose.

In this day and age of internet information overload and increased expectations around life, school and competition success, you just might not be able to do it all unless you also develop calm control by learning to breathe differently.

But first, a little education.

Anxiety comes from either worrying about past events or fearing future ones. Recent research in the Journal of Health Psychology shows that mindful meditation—which puts you in the present moment—can actually help athletes feel more satisfied with their workouts and improve motivation, which improves focus.

GETTING STARTED: I do this simple exercise with athletes struggling with anxiety:

  • Sit comfortably and uncross legs and hands. Close the eyes and breathe in for 3 seconds, pause, and breathe out for 4 seconds. Do this 10 times. When working with youth, tell them to “blow out birthday candles.” By starting on the out-breath, they’ll have a calmer in-breath.

  • Scan the body starting at the feet and move your way up releasing any tension.

  • Continue the breathing as you recall a time when you were calm, content, and in control. This could be a time at a beach or in the middle of a competitive event.

  • Get a present moment experience of that time by answering to yourself: What do I see? What do I hear? What do I feel?

  • Come up with a cue word or short phrase that evokes this experience and feeling.

  • Rehearse this as often as possible to strengthen your mental path to calm control.

  • Next time you need it, say your cue word(s) so you can access that calm control immediately, and blow away the barriers to your success.