Quick Tips to Manage Anxiety Before a Sports Competition
The next game starts in five minutes. Adrenaline is coursing through your veins, and you can’t tell the difference anymore between fear and excitement — you know that feeling. That’s the feeling, the one that makes everything you’re doing worthwhile, the one that stays with you into this game and into the next one as well. But there’s a fine line between excitement for the game, and anxiety before athletic competition. When you can’t shake the nerves, and the pressure is dauntingly present, what can you do? There’s no way out, no time for fifteen minutes of deep breathing and yoga. This is your moment. Right now.
Anxiety Before a Sports Competition is Normal
Whatever your sport, there’s a big difference between hobby-playing in a local park and playing a “real” game, and an even bigger difference between that game and a competition. At every stage, stress is a normal reaction to approaching your own performance — in fact, it’s a biological response designed to help you. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it, and that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do either.1
eSmartr’s 3 Quick Tips:
When time is of the essence, here are three things you can do in the moment to reduce anxiety before any sports competition.
- Acknowledge your anxiety. Before any sports competition, and during any game, anxiety is not something that is going to just go away. Acknowledge it. Try talking to yourself, even if just to say “I feel anxious about this game.” Discuss what you’re feeling in the moment, as if to another person. Ask yourself what a friend would say in return. Understanding how you’re doing and where you’re at is a great place to start. Once you’ve addressed your feelings, you can then turn to positive self-talk to feel confident during the game.
- This ones a real quick trick – smile. Like self-talking, just the act of smiling is enough to make your brain react more positively to your surroundings. Studies have shown that the act of smiling alleviates stress!2 If you’re well fueled and well-rested (eat well and sleep well, people!), a simple smile could be what tips the scales entirely in your favour.
- Take a moment; Breathe. If you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed and can’t work through it, then it’s time to stop for a second. Even after the game has started, pausing for a moment isn’t going to cost your team the game, but it will make a world of difference for you.
You can also use smart compression to help manage any anxiety before sports events; this is touch-based technology embedded in eSmartr sleeves that improves your cognition, including focus and mental calmness, by stimulating specific nerves on the forearm. At eSmartr, we’re pretty big on sports — with partners like HEAD and Umbro, it’s hard not to be! — and we understand that mental and physical wellness is the linchpin of a successful game and tournament. Be aware of yourself and your surroundings, keep your focus on how you can do your best — and from there, you can push back against your anxieties every time.
1. Nathanael C.H., Ong, Joshua H.E. Chua. (2020). Effects of psychological interventions on competitive anxiety in sport: A meta-analysis. Psychology of Sport and Exercise (52).
2. Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response. Psychological Science,23(11), 1372–1378.https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612445312