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Before an athletic event, like a race or an important competitive sports match, you might feel an influx of anxiety that’s difficult to manage.
Depending on your situation, you might have a team counting on you. You might have an audience watching you. And no matter what, you’ll be pushing yourself to your physical limit in at least some ways.
It’s a lot of pressure to manage. Fortunately, there are several strategies that can help you soothe that anxiety in the days and hours leading up to your event.
Create a Routine
One of the best things you can do for yourself is create a routine. Routines make us feel comfortable and safe, and give us a predictable pattern of behaviors to follow. During a competition, one critical factor for producing anxiety is novelty; you’re often forced to be in a new situation, in a new environment, and surrounded by people you don’t know. You might also be dealing with an unfamiliar sequence of events leading up to the event, like waking up at a new time.
Mitigate the effects of these novelties by integrating them into your routine leading up to the event. For example, you can wake up at the right time and drive to the starting location each day as a kind of practice run.
Visualize Your Performance
Visualization is a powerful technique that helps you relieve anxiety, focus on your goals, and even improve your performance. In the days and weeks leading up to your competition, spend a bit of time each day thinking about your performance, and visualizing what you plan to do. Include as many details as possible, including sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. The more you do this, the more confident and prepared you’ll feel.
Consider Using CBD
One of the most popular natural products for relieving stress in the modern era is CBD, thanks to new regulations that allow its production and sale. There are a variety of CBD products available, including the sour “space candy” CBD hemp flower; anything with a sufficient CBD content can help you calm your racing thoughts and relax you.
Keep a Journal
Another great option to relieve your anxiety is to keep a journal. In this exercise, you’ll write down how you’ve trained and how you feel about your athletic abilities. This can help you keep track of your progress, and feel confident about how far you’ve come.
It’s also an opportunity to write about how you’re feeling, subjectively. How anxious are you feeling? What are the root causes of that anxiety? Have you been able to engage in any habits that mitigate your anxiety? Writing these things down can help you process your thoughts and ultimately feel better about your situation.
Set Yourself Up for Ample Sleep
Anxiety is exacerbated by a lack of sleep, and unfortunately, anxiety is also a root cause of losing sleep, often resulting in a vicious cycle. One of your highest priorities should be getting plenty of sleep in the days leading up to the competition—and setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep the night before. Adjust your sleep schedule so you’re waking up and going to bed at the same time each day, limit your caffeine intake, and make sure you’re sleeping in a comfortable, familiar bed. You may also consider taking a sleep aid, but make sure you test it well in advance of the race so you know how it affects your body.
Another common tactic for athletes seeking anxiety relief is meditation—especially mindfulness meditation. There are many different styles of meditation, but most of them are centered on the same goal; clearing your mind of distracting thoughts and giving you greater focus. With mindfulness, you’ll attempt to focus on your breathing (or on a repeating mantra), and attempt to observe all your thoughts and feelings as they pass. With practice, you’ll enter a state of peace, with heightened emotional control.
Concentrate on Something
If your anxiety becomes overwhelming the day of the event, consider distracting yourself by focusing on something other than your persistent anxious thoughts. For example, you could narrow your focus to one blade of grass on the field, or on a piece of art that’s hanging in the locker room. A few minutes of attention may be all it takes to soothe your anxiety.
You won’t be able to get rid of your anxiety entirely, and even if you could, you may not want to; remember, anxiety may feel unpleasant, but it’s a powerful physiological response designed to prepare us for a stressful situation.
A little bit of anxiety can heighten your senses and improve your performance, giving you the edge you need to outcompete your fellow athletes.
In the meantime, keep your anxiety at manageable levels with these tactics.