3 Ways to Manage Stress
Stress. We all have it. Some deal with it better than others. Athletes and other performers are tasked with dealing with a variety of stressors to the best of their ability, throughout their competition or other performance.
What are some ways you can manage stress? Ah, the age old question.
I offer up 3 ways:
Let’s break them down.
For athletes, oftentimes your identity is tied to how you perform in your sport. Important to note in bold and all caps: YOU ARE NOT YOUR SPORT. You are a human being who chooses to play a sport. You are not defined by your sport results; you are much bigger than that. This takes time to sit with and really allow it to register. When it does, you recognize that the stress that comes from a game might not have as great an impact as it did before. At that point you are free to fail, which will help you perform your best.
This is similar to a reinterpretation but more of an in the moment “fix.” Are you feeling stressed by a large crowd or weighty expectations? See if you can reframe - or change perspectives - and see that stress in a different manner. If you’re nervous, consider the last time you were excited. Maybe it was right before riding a roller-coaster. Your hands were probably a bit sweaty, your heart rate was up, maybe you had a little rumble in your belly. Those are the same physical manifestations that arise when you’re nervous. So next time you feel nervous, tell yourself “I’m excited!” You have the opportunity to feel nervous/excited; not everyone goes through life with that opportunity!
The practice of mindfulness includes recognizing thoughts and allowing them to pass by returning to an anchor, like your breath. If you practice this, in many ways including formal seated meditation, you train your mind to register what is coming up for you (in this case, stress), notice it, and releasing it by allowing your mind to return to your breath, or the task at hand (like the present play). Like any other skill, this takes practice! Our minds have a habit of circulating stressors so training yourself mindfulness is an ongoing practice of self-exploration.
There is a lot to consider in terms of stress management! Each one of the aforementioned tools are a topic unto themselves. I offer up these three ways for you to consider and think about what might work best for you.
Good luck on your journey, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help!