No matter how much you’ve trained, performance anxiety before or during a competition may occur, hindering the results of your match. Colloquially referred to as “choking,” performance anxiety is a result of overwhelming perceived stress, which leads to a decrease in athletic performance.
Whether these anxieties stem from past experiences or a fear of failure, it’s an important emotion to identify and deal with. Here are a few ways to overcome performance anxiety.
Why Does Performance Anxiety Happen?
This perceived stress can occur due to the athlete not being comfortable with performing in front of an audience, having very high expectations of himself or herself, or any number of influences that may be affecting the athlete subconsciously. These anxieties can lead to behaviors that will further harm your performance, such as inadequate or excessive warm-up exercises and poor form.
How Can I Manage Performance Anxiety?
While you can tell yourself to stay calm prior to a competition, managing performance anxiety may not be as simple as that. Research has shown that strategies such as meditation and guided imagery are great places to start; both require your brain to rehearse what you will do during your competition. Your imagination holds much more power than you may expect, helping you focus on how to beat your opponent, instead of other factors that contribute to your anxiety. Adequate preparation also plays a large role.
To master the mental game, it takes time. Starting one month before your competition, consider sitting in solitude in a comfortable position for 15 minutes each day. Focus first on breathing in and out deeply. Then, begin to imagine competition situations and visualize yourself in a fight with your competitor. Be mindful of your anxiety and return your focus to breathing if you feel yourself tense up.
Sometimes, you may find yourself thinking self-deprecating or negative thoughts, at which point you should consciously replace any negative self-talk with positive self-talk. During these visualizations, also be sure to think about your posture and form and create cues — mental and verbal — that will help you review and correct your technique.
Understand and Prepare
Pre-competition jitters are completely normal and it’s important to acknowledge that. Accepting that this excitement and/or nervousness is normal will help your body also understand that what you are experiencing is not fear, but perhaps part of your adrenaline response to competition. Also, give yourself ample time before your match and arrive at the venue ahead of schedule, so that you can relax, ease into competition mode, warm up, stretch, and visualize.
With more experience, mindful visualization and mental/physical preparation can help you manage and overcome performance anxiety. Now that you’re prepared for tournament competition, beat the business competition with PerfectMind’s leading martial arts management software and see how we’ve helped grow over 5,000 martial arts schools around the world.
How do you manage performance anxiety before a competition? What techniques have worked for you in the past? Let us know on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Google+, to stay up to date with all of your PerfectMind news.