Ways to Deal with Nervousness: Breathe and Relax

My last two posts dealt with the technical and strategic ways that you can deal with nervousness. Those ways are more like compromises since they don’t directly help you get back into a peak performance mindset. In the next few posts, I will write about things you can do mentally to help settle your nerves and get back into a peak performance mindset.

 One of the easiest things to do to deal with nerves is to simply take deep breaths and try to relax your muscles. We’ve all heard coaches tell players to relax when they’re nervous. What does that exactly mean? Well some of the symptoms of nerves/choking are tight muscles and shallow breathing. This causes your movements to be awkward and weak as well as making you tired faster. These symptoms are a sign that your conscious mind is trying to control your motor skills, which is not good. This is the main reason why athletes choke (mistakes caused by nervousness). The conscious mind is not as good as the unconscious mind at controlling learned motor skills. This is why coaches often say things such as "Don't think. Trust your instincts and muscle memory." 

 To counteract the symptoms of nervousness, you can take deep breaths. You can also shake your arms around like noodles to help relax your muscles. And you can stand or sit still and release the tension in your muscles. As your muscle tension lowers, your breathing deepens, and your heart rate lowers, you will feel more relaxed and less nervous. 

Once you settle down your nerves using these breathing and relaxation tips, then it becomes easier to use the other mental strategies to help get yourself back into a peak performance mindset. Next week I will write about how concentration can help you deal with nervousness.