Pre-game jitters getting the best of you? If your coach is telling you it’s go-time but your nerves seem to have other plans, simple breathing techniques can help ease performance anxiety. Don’t worry, athletes — we promise this doesn’t mean sitting cross-legged and “Omming” for an hour… Your breath is your most powerful and accessible tool because it helps you focus and relax at the same time — a perfect combo when it comes to silencing the mind’s endless stream of chatter and quelling anxiety. In other words, the mind always needs something to think about, so let it think about your breath, rather than your stress. Focusing your mind on your breath will get your head in the game and keep you present, leaving you with nothing to worry about till after the game (when you have to decide where to go to celebrate!)
Try it: Seated meditation (to get your head into the game)
Practice this technique as a pre-game or pre-workout ritual to focus on the task at hand, relax the tension in the body, and silence any worries, fears, or anxieties. This is also a fantastic way to begin your day.
- Sit comfortably — cross-legged, knees bent/sitting on your calves, or legs straight out in front of you. If it’s tough to sit up or your low back feels achy right away, just sit with your back against a wall, or even in a chair (just make sure you’re comfortable so you can sit still for a few minutes)
- Lay your palms face down on your thighs, and relax your fingers
- Close your eyes
- Take a deep inhale… a slow exhale
- Continue to deepen your breath — you should notice that you have a lot more space/lung capacity to breathe than you usually take full advantage of!
- Once you find a steady rhythm, do a quick mental scan of your body and notice places where you are holding tension — common culprits are your shoulders and jaw, so remember to relax and unclench
- Now as inhale as you slowly count to four in your head… then exhale for four counts
- Repeat for several cycles, counting slowly to yourself — and see if you can gradually lengthen that count out to 6 or even 8
- Once that feels very steady, stop counting and keep breathing deeply
- Notice how you feel
- Open your eyes and smile. Take note of the calm steadiness you feel and use it to set the tone for your workout, game, or day…
Stay tuned for more performance-boosting breathing techniques.