Some more top tips on transforming your stress and getting yourself back in balance so you can shine!
We all feel anxious at times and some people have found that they can learn to channel those ‘butterflies’ into improving their performance. Others find themselves in a pattern of negative thinking that becomes paralysing and see no way out.
In this short article I am going to share a couple of techniques used to allow you to pull yourself out of the ‘stress response’ and focus your energy on optimising your performance. These techniques are used by many famous sportspeople and performers and are part of their routines for getting and staying ‘in the zone’.
Last month I talked about ‘tapping’ and using your body’s natural energy pathways to get yourself back in balance. This month I wanted to introduce you to a couple of very simple breathing techniques you can use anytime and anywhere – so whether your anxiety is pre-exam, during or post-exam ‘catastrophising’ – this technique will work. Notice however that I said this was simple rather than easy – that is because it does take some practice and means you have to give yourself permission to take a 5 minute timeout when you experience anxiety.
Change begins with awareness and showing yourself some self-care. So set aside 5 minutes now as you read and practise these 2 exercises.
Getting to neutral: This exercise is great for when you notice your mind is racing, perhaps chattering – distracting and maybe full of negative thoughts. Along with this you may be experiencing physical sensations and tension.
So here are the 3 steps to getting into ‘neutral’:
- Stop and sit or stand with your eyes open and notice your breathing.
- Take as deep a breath in as you can and focus your attention on the area around your heart.
Top tip: Some people find that this is easier if they place their hand over their chest in the area of their heart. And, if your attention wanders just bring it gently back as you breathe in next time.
- As your breathing relaxes – keeping your mind focused on the area around your heart – see if you can lengthen the in and out breath so that each cycle takes around 10 secs. And imagine that you are breathing in and out through your heart. Only do as much as is comfortable – there is no need to force it as with practice your body will adjust as you practise.
As your breathing and attention shifts to the heart your mind will gradually quieten and within just a few minutes you are ‘in neutral’. Your mind will feel clearer and you are back in control.
The next exercise is an ‘add on’ to the 3 steps above:
- Establish your breathing rhythm as in Steps 1 – 3 above.
- As you breathe out say to yourself a word or a phrase that describes the feeling or attitude you want to change.
- As you breathe in say a word to yourself that describes the new empowering feeling or attitude you want to change to.
So, for example – breathe out ‘anxiety’ and breathe in ‘calm’. You can use whatever words you choose and are meaningful to you.
Two simple exercises you can practise to transform your stress responses and get yourself in the driving seat – when you know you have prepared and put in the effort don’t let stress undermine you – choose to take control and be kind to yourself.
All it takes is 5 minutes as soon as you are aware that stress has been triggered for you and begin to get back to neutral – techniques for getting a clear, quiet mind and relaxing the body are part of most successful sportspeople’s toolbox and you can use them too!