We all know that feeling. That feeling before the game or match, the interview, that uncomfortable conversation you’ve been putting off, the first day in your new position on the team… We all feel those big pressure moments in our lives. Many times we set ourselves up for success or failures in those very instants. Anticipation seems to create tremendously powerful emotions and thoughts, and if you haven’t learned how to tame them, they can take complete control over you.
What is the pressure from anticipation?
These are times when nerves or anxiety seem to build, like the situations I mentioned above. It is not only normal to feel this pressure, but to an extent, it’s healthy! It shows something is important to you.
But sometimes, it can become too overwhelming to even think about, so you find yourself shoving it out of your mind. That is when you know the way you are thinking is making the situation worse.
Where does pressure from anticipation come from?
Here’s an example to illustrate my point further. Say two people come across a dog. One of them says “Wow a dog! I love dogs, look how fluffy he is!” They are then feeling excited and happy, looking forward to the upcoming moments being around that dog. But the other person says “Oh no! A dog! What if it bites me!” This person is left feeling anxious, nervous, and absolutely not looking forward to the next few moments.
What is the body’s response when overwhelmed by pressure?
- Physically: tense muscles, nausea, poor breathing, increased heart rate
- Mentally: racing thoughts, distorted thoughts, unablity to focus
- Emotionally: fear, panic, frustration, nervousness
- Behaviorally: feel stiff, fret, act abnormal, possible panic attack
How to tame anticipation
Having these tools in your back pocket will help you take ownership of the situation and give you confidence in overcoming future pressure situations. Here are just a few…
Write down specific thoughts, feelings about those thoughts, and how you see these thoughts affecting your performance. This is the first step in changing the your approach.
Especially in sports, routines keep your mind and body focused on your task at hand. An idle mind tends to be the “devils playground” for negative thoughts.
Some athletes find verbal cues helpful as they approach a skill. For example, a kicker might have an internal verbal routine before punting, “breath, step, step, set up, blast!”
3. Self Talk
Distorted thoughts breed negativity, whereas healthy thoughts produce positive beliefs of self, making you feel more confident and relaxed.
4. Deep Breathing
Learning the proper way to deep breath allows proper blood flow, leaving you feel more relaxed and able to think more completely.
Normalize situations with quick phrases that puts your mind more at ease. Phrases like, “anxiety is normal” or, “I will overcome this.”
When you visualize a successful scenario in your mind, it will help you to see that you CAN actually achieve it.
Certainly, our past experiences play a significant part, but the way we perceive the current moment plays a huge role in our emotions moving forward, the way we behave and the outcomes we achieve.