Updated: Jan 26, 2020
Anxiety got the best of you?
Does this sound like you? You’ve trained your body, but anxiety holds you back every time. Each athlete's story is unique as to why they have anxiety. Fear of not meeting your own or expectations or disappointing someone, fear of living with your own failure, or wasting all that hard training, are just a few reasons athletes have shared with me. But a simple strategy can help you regain control of your performance.
What is it exactly? 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. It's quite simple, really. Everything starts with the breath, and here's how you can get started...
Do this simple exercise I share with athletes struggling with anxiety:
Sit comfortably with hands and legs uncrossed, feet flat, and back supported. Close the eyes and breathe in through the nose for 3 seconds, pause, and breathe out through the mouth 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).
Now continue the breathing as you scan the body starting at the feet. Slowly move your attention up the body releasing any tension you might sense in those areas.
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 during a successful workout.
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.