It’s only a few hours until the game starts, and you’re a complete mess thanks to some major pre-game jitters. Calm down—there’s a way around them. Try these tips and don’t let pre-competition anxiety get the best of you.
Practice for keeps
That adrenaline shot when a competition starts? It never really goes away, but you can control it if you make playing for keeps your new “normal.” You can’t always be in an official game, so whatever your sport, create a scenario during practice where there’s something at stake. Try something more meaningful than just bragging rights, such as a dollar pool, or ante up a protein shake at that too-expensive gym bar. Once a real competition rolls around, you’ll be used to the pressure and will have dulled the worry of defeat.
One of the hardest, but most rewarding, methods of calming your nerves is spending time seeing, feeling and hearing the game go down in your head up to two weeks before the big day. Meditate before bed daily—you know you’re doing it right when you feel those nerves flare up. Over time, you’ll not only get used to the pressure, you’ll feel confident having anticipated every move, every misstep and every opportunity to shine before you even hit the pine.
Watch your diet
Prior to competition, your body is coursing with adrenaline and stress hormones that can adversely affect your digestion. You’ll also feel uncommonly unhungry. Both of these conditions can add unnecessary stress. To combat any “digestive issues,” you’ll want to cut out spicy and fibre-rich foods about a day before competition. If you feel nauseated, forget to eat, or can’t handle eating a full meal, try protein shakes or meal replacement drinks. Keeping your fuel levels topped up will help you perform and will make you feel less nervous.
Remove the win/lose scenario
Most nervousness comes from outcome dependency: either you want to win, or you want to hit a certain milestone. Since you can’t control everything on the court, this mindset becomes nerve-wracking. Instead, give yourself goals that you can control, and are dependent only on your own willingness to perform. Good ones are “I will give it everything in the fourth quarter” or “I will sprint the last 100 metres.” This attitude will also enable you to look at mistakes as lessons to be learned from, not shame-inducing memories.
If all else fails, create a distraction. This can be something as simple as counting backwards in your head, drowning out your thoughts with a pair of headphones, or going about your day and chores like there’s no competition at all.