Sports teach us many lessons: from learning how to be a gracious winner (and loser) to overcoming emotions, dedication, and more. But, competition can also elicit stress and you must learn how to deal with it effectively to perform at your best.
Stressors have a major influence on mood, our sense of well-being, behavior, and health. And it’s been well-documented that too much stress can negatively impact health.
Things that can make an athlete feel stressed include:
- Feeling pressure from yourself, coaches and others to win.
- Piling too much on our plate.
- Working on weaknesses.
- Feelings of not wanting to compete because of the stress it brings.
- Focusing on competitors’ achievements and comparing yourself to them (hello, social media).
Ways to manage that stress can look like this:
- Changing your focus from winning to giving it your all.
- Managing your schedule so that you have downtime.
- Being open and vulnerable about your negative feelings so that you can overcome them.
We can’t avoid stress, but we can employ tactics to manage it effectively. These can include:
- Breathing exercises
- Visualization/mental rehearsal of positive performances
- Muscle relaxation
- Focusing on what we can control
- Being organized and sticking to a routine
- Positive self-talk
- Focusing on having fun
- Celebrating small wins
- Looking at any failures and challenges as learning opportunities
- Limiting or avoiding social media if it makes you feel inadequate
- Taking a day off of training to give your body and mind a break
Realize that stress is normal, but be aware when it gets to be too much. Testing some of the techniques given above and including them in your routine BEFORE stress becomes overwhelming is key.
Don’t let stress win!