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No matter your sport or age, anyone who’s ever played has felt those pre-game “butterflies” in their stomach. Some of us also get the sweats even before we set foot on the field or in the arena. And in the extreme, you might feel your heart pump so rapidly, you think you’re about to faint.
Although they feel nowhere near normal, these symptoms are actually common to anxiety, clinically known as Cognitive Mental State Anxiety. Other symptoms can include negative thoughts, feelings of apprehension and nervousness. Another form of anxiety is known as Somatic Physical Anxiety, which describes the characteristics you are born with (for example, if you have the habit of vomiting before a big game).
Both types of pre-game anxiety can be overcome, but you must keep in mind that what works for one athlete may not work for another. Therefore, overcoming anxiety requires a wide range of tactics.
It really doesn’t matter whether you are a professional or a recreational athlete. There are different strategies that can be implemented to help you out. Some will need developing on an ongoing basis, while others can be used and redefined as you improve your skills.
Deep Breathing needs to be practiced over time to become effective. You focus on your breathing as well as on different parts of your body to realize any appreciable benefit. Doing so will help release tension from other areas of your body.
Relaxation Training enables you to feel relaxed in both mind and body. There are a couple of techniques used by athletes, one of which is listening to music. Another practice that is becoming increasingly popular is yoga. Using positive self-talk and developing a “mind video” of all the good plays you’ve performed performed in the past can also be helpful.
Emotional Control involves working to access your inner feelings. Identify the good performances and compare how you felt following a bad performance. This will help you to understand how you react and feel during contrasting emotional states.
Goal Setting gives you purpose and direction, which you can focus on. Set focus goals or process goals, not just outcome goals, as this will help with building better habits.
Think about your game and what is making you anxious before your performance. Ask yourself: “What type of mental routines that can I do to help myself overcome and perform better? Which major factor keeps me from performing at my best?” Analyzing the root of your anxiety is key to conquering it.
Coach Warren Nye is the founder and CEO of UltimateHockeySource and the UHS ProShop. He has served as player, coach, and manager, and has coached many players who have gone on to play professional hockey. Adapted from an article appearing on CrossIceHockey.com—Where Rec Hockey Lives. © 2015 Digital Media Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.