By Coach Warren Nye
Have you ever had butterflies bouncing around in your stomach before a big game? Or have you ever felt sweaty even before playing? How about getting your heart rate elevated so high, you think you might be fainting?
These are common symptoms of anxiety, or its proper term, Cognitive Mental State Anxiety. The symptoms can also include negative thoughts, feelings of apprehension, or nervousness. Now another form of anxiety is known as Somatic Physical Anxiety, which describes the characteristics that you are born with (for example, having the habit of throwing up before a game or competition).
Both types of anxiety can be overcome, but we must remember that what works for one athlete may not for another. Therefore, overcoming anxiety requires a wide range of tactics.
It really doesn’t matter whether you are a professional or a recreational athlete. There are different strategies that can be implemented to help you out. Some will need developing on an ongoing basis, while others can be used and redefined as you improve your hockey skills.
Deep Breathing for Overcoming Anxiety
This strategy needs to be practiced over time to become effective. You need to focus on your breathing as well as on different parts of your body to realize any appreciable benefit. Doing so will help release tension from other areas of your body.
The purpose of relaxation training is to enable you to feel relaxed in both mind and body. There are a couple of techniques used by athletes, one of which is listening to music. Another practice that is becoming increasingly popular is yoga.
Using positive self-talk and developing a ‘mind video’ of all the good plays you’ve performed in the past can also be helpful.
You need to understand that you must work to access your inner feelings. Identify the good performances and compare how you felt following a bad performance. This will help you to understand how you react and feel during contrasting emotional states.
A great but simple technique for you to use on a regular basis is setting goals. This gives you purpose and direction, which you can focus on. Set focus goals or process goals, not just outcome goals, as this will help with building better habits.
Finally, ask yourself these Power Thought questions:
- What type of mental routines can I do to help myself overcome anxiety and perform better?
- Which major factor keeps me from performing at my best?
Coach Warren Nye is the founder and CEO of UltimateHockeySource and the UHS ProShop. He has served as player, coach, and manager, and has coached many players who have gone on to play professional hockey.