The butterflies are almost always the worst.
I know they’re about to start fluttering when a shot of adrenaline surges through my body. My muscles feel kind of weak, even with the extra energy. I don’t get sweaty palms, but the back of my neck flushes hot.
It’s more than nervousness or a fear of failure. It is the need to be my very best.
Although how we feel during a competition is different for every person, there are similarities that each of us will experience. The stomach churning, fear-producing, unfocused mind can conjure up a lot of scenarios where failure becomes the only possible result. When you know these methods to help keep yourself calm while competing, it becomes easier to make the most out of these moments.
#1. Stick to a routine. Although being on complete autopilot isn’t beneficial, forcing yourself to think about every single task you need to finish before starting a competition is also not helpful. I’ve found that by embracing how I think and feel when I’m at my best, I can focus on the routine tasks with enough attention to complete them without losing my focus on the end goal.
#2. Let it go. When it is time to start competing, the focus tends to shift from the actual competition to the variable influences which might affect it. Racers might worry about the weather, their diet, or what it might mean to fail. To avoid this, I place visual cues that emphasize the importance of the competition so I can stay focused on the process I need to follow instead of what is going on around me.
#3. Picture what it means to succeed. When I was in high school, our basketball team once lost 40 straight games. One of my friends was on that team and he just didn’t care. “We never win. So I don’t bother to try.” That attitude went into the practices, the efforts during the game, and sometimes even how those on the team interacted with others. They were picturing themselves failing.
It’s not always easy to visualize success. I look at what I want to accomplish and then picture that moment. I want to know how I’ll feel so that I can strive toward that feeling with my daily actions. It doesn’t mean I’ll get there, but if one practices for success, they are much more likely to achieve it.
#4. Cope with the worries. Do you have people come up to you randomly while you run errands? It happens to me all the time. That kind of interaction triggers my stress alarms. I worry about who I might run into during the day and what they might say to me. During a competition, this anxiety gets heightened by 1000%. When you know your triggers and how your body reacts to them, then you can begin to cope with them.
I prefer deep breathing exercises and meditation. Anything that lets you examine the emotions, however, will be beneficial.
#5. Plan for the worst-case scenario. When you are competing, what is the worst thing that could happen to you? Picture it. Then plan what you’ll do if it happens. Chances are that it will not, but when you expect the unexpected, you’re able to keep pushing forward.
Staying calm isn’t always easy while competing, but it is possible. Apply these methods to your next efforts to see if they can help you cross the finish line.
How do you handle competition? What strategies help you to stay calm?