It’s SuperBowl Sunday. Some of the world’s top athletes will be facing off, and most of these players will only have one chance shot at a championship (unless Tom Brady is your quarterback). Their entire careers, even lives, have revolved around getting to this point. That’s some serious pressure.
It’s easy to fall into the wrong headspace when in high pressure situations like this. Now, most of us don’t end up on TV with 100 million people watching, but we all experience flashes of anxiety in certain situations. It’s biology. And we can use it to our advantage. Not only is competing in any sport more enjoyable when it’s fun, but there are also scientific reasons to let loose. Here are a few tips to combat that nervous feeling and use it to your advantage!
Competition tip 1: Peak performance stems from both physical and mental performance. For athletes already in peak physical condition, gaining an edge may be more about improving what happens within the mind. Athletes are able to differentiate themselves from their competition, based upon the psychological skills they hold, develop, and are able to apply effectively. For athletes striving for best results, a positive mindset has been identified as making a vital difference in performance. So, enjoy the competition and have fun with those around you. That’s why you’ll always find me socializing at competitions. Warm up properly and focus on the task at hand when competing, and try to just enjoy the moments in between.
Competition tip 2: When our smiling muscles contract, they fire a signal back to the brain, stimulating our reward system, and further increasing our level of endorphins (happy hormones). In short, when our brain feels happy, we smile; when we smile, our brain feels happier. Thanks to the positive feedback loop of smiling, we can alter our brain’s emotional processing pathway to feel happier with a simple smile.
Competition tip 3: Thinking too much about what you are doing because you are worried about performing poorly can lead to “paralysis by analysis.” In a nutshell, paralysis by analysis occurs when people try to control every aspect of what they are doing in an attempt to ensure success. Unfortunately, this increased control can backfire, disrupting what was once a fluid, flawless performance. Try to come up with a great warm up routine. Competition is mostly mental. You’ve practiced countless hours, trust that you are prepared and get in the zone. Whenever I compete, I take a moment to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and embrace the “nervous” feeling rather than fight it. This will not only make you feel good, but also gets you excited about competing, and that positive natural adrenalin can make a big difference in your results.