You have trained for months for your chosen event. You are fit, healthy and strong, but then on the day your anxiety and fear of what lies ahead, or who you are competing against, gets the better of you, and instead of running your personal best, as planned, you run the worst race of your life. Been there? Then try this.
Self-visualisation is a great way to reduce the fear and stress of an upcoming situation or event. For instance, you have to play in a championship game in front of a large group of people or you have to compete in a race on a track in front of a lot of people, or against a tough competitor. Before the big day comes, imagine yourself competing in your mind. By playing the game in your mind, you will be better prepared to perform for real when the time comes.
Sometimes we get stressed out when everything happens all at once. When this happens, take a deep breath and try to find something to do for a few minutes to get your mind off things. Read the newspaper, listen to some music or do an activity that will give you a fresh perspective on things. This is a great technique to use before your next event.
Keep a small notebook of positive statements that you can carry around with you. Whenever you come across an affirmation that makes you feel good, write it down, and whenever you feel stressed before your event, read those statements. This will help to manage your negative thinking. Remember that our fearful thoughts are exaggerated and can make the problem worse. Challenge your negative thinking with positive statements and realistic thinking.
FACING YOUR OPPONENT
If you are an elite athlete or planning to win a race, the first step is to learn as much as you can about your fellow competitors. Although this may seem obvious, some athletes may think they already know what they need to know. Remember there is always something to learn about your competition. Try to figure out an angle on how you can beat your competition. The more you know about your competition, the better your chances of winning. This will also help to reduce your worries in the future. Do not assume anything about your competition, whether they are stronger or weaker than you. Every athlete has his good and bad times, and just because you may be facing a stronger opponent does not mean that you will lose. Remember that you and your opponent both have an equal chance of winning. You are both starting from scratch. This should help give you confidence going into your next event.
STRIVE FOR PERFECTION
Focus on how you can best strive for perfection in your own event, instead of worrying too much about your opponent. Instead of focusing on how good your competition is, focus on your own performance. Concentrate on how you can best perform your event and how you can improve on your problem areas.
WINNING IS NOT EVERYTHING
Realise that you can’t win all the time, and that also applies to your competition. You may be the best athlete in the world, but you will still sometimes lose. No one can win all the time. When facing a tough competitor, use this fact to your advantage. Even the best athletes will make some mistakes.
LEARN WHAT WORKS
In every anxiety-related situation you experience, begin to learn what works, what doesn’t work, and what you need to improve on in managing your fears and anxieties. For instance, you have a lot of anxiety and you decide to take a small walk before your event, to help you feel better. The next time you feel anxious, you can remind yourself that you got through it the last time by taking a walk. This will give you the confidence to manage your anxiety the next time around.
ASK FOR HELP WHEN NECESSARY
Take advantage of the help that is available to you, especially if your fears get the best of you every time you need to perform. Talk to a professional who can help you manage these fears and anxieties. It never hurts to ask for help.
Remember that in sport, and in life, all you can do is to do your best each day, hope for the best, and when something does happen, take it in your stride. Also, remember that all the worrying in the world will not change anything. Most of what we worry about never comes true. Instead of worrying about something that probably won’t happen, concentrate on what you are able to do.
Stan Popovich is the author of A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods, an easy-reading book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to www.managingfear.com.