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"Just stop overthinking it!"

January 05, 20243 min read

We've all been there. You have trained really hard for months and months and today is the day of your event or game. You arrive and your hands are sweaty, your mouth is dry, you have a stomach ache and you feel REALLY nervous! Yikes, you think, "What if I mess this up, what will everyone think of me?"

Sure enough, you don't perform as well as you usually do in practice. So what happened? You can do it really well in practice, but when it counts, you freeze up! Your parent and your coaches will tell you, 

"Just stop overthinking it!"

Yeah, sure, I can do that ?*!?*!

No way,
I don’t even know HOW to do that, how to stop thinking. 

There is a continuous stream of thoughts running through my head and many of them seem to just make me more nervous!!!

How do you actually STOP overthinking? The good news is that it can be done with a little practice!

Stress response

When athletes are in that  Fight of Flight response and under pressure to perform well, the body readies itself to flee quickly or react to life-threatening situations. This is your body’s natural survival mechanism. The hypothalamus kicks in and directs the autonomic nervous system to increase breathing, blood pressure, heartbeat and the dilation or constriction of key blood vessels, and adrenaline is pumped into the bloodstream. There is a cascade of other physiological changes that follow. Sight, hearing and other senses become sharper. 

This is why we feel the stress response in our body. It happens so quickly, we don’t always notice it until we feel sweaty palms, have the urge to go to the bathroom, feel our heart racing, experience a stomach ache or nauseousness and our thoughts getting sped up with negative thoughts such as, “what if I miss the shot”. We are experiencing that fight or flight response and if we don’t train ahead of time to be ready for it, it can unhinge us and cause us to ‘choke’ (the inability to complete plays/elements in a game or competition that are easily done in practice).

So, what do we do to get a handle on the stress response?

  1. Re-interpret it: When you feel your body experiencing the stress response, interpret it positively. “Oh, good, I can feel the adrenaline kicking in. That means I have a lot of energy, focus and my timing will be very quick. That will help me to perform better!”

  2. Practice a relaxation response ahead of time such as abdominal breathing, visualization of a calming scene, positive affirmations or prayer, yoga, meditation, music or positive self-talk.

  3. Focus your attention on one thing for 1-2 minutes and notice all the details: the shape, texture, sounds, temperature… This serves to narrow your focus so that you can control where you focus your attention which replaces negative thinking that causes more stress. 

  4. Find your ideal activation zone and practice staying in that zone before game or event day.

Learn more about these techniques in our next workshop or in a 1:1 coaching session. 

These are great techniques that need to be practiced so that you can depend on them, increase your confidence and be able to control your self-talk at your next game or competition.

Please comment and share what has worked for you in the past to deal with the stress response!

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Shannon Peck

Shannon Peck has over 15 years of experience in the fields of psychology and executive coaching, she brings a unique approach to acquiring Mindset techniques in a fun and positive atmosphere that combines evidence-based practices with an athlete centered approach. She holds a Master's degree in Psychology and is a certified Sport Psychology Coach with experience coaching Athletes, Coaches Parents, and Youth Sport Leaders in building great sports' cultures. She was an accomplished competitive skater in her youth and has coached competitive skaters for over 25 years. She toured as a principal skater with Ice Capades, Disney on Ice, Sea World Rhythms on Ice, Holiday on Ice and American Super Dream in Japan.

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"I used to get really frustrated with myself on bad skating days, especially when I came into the rink already upset or sad. I would often leave more frustrated than when I came in. Coach Shannon taught us about our emotional tank and how our state of mind can impact our performance, which has made a huge impact on my improvement. When I became aware of my emotional tank, I was able to adjust my expectations and what I was practicing that day, which allowed me to make progress on the harder days. In general, it helped me have a better attitude toward skating and enjoy it much more. Now, I’ve applied this to different aspects of my life, including school and it has really helped! "

Tiffany - Synchronized and Singles Figure skater

"One of the most powerful things that I took away from my coaching with Shannon was the use of Imagery, how I can use it to prepare for challenging situations. When I practice with Imagery ahead of time, I realize that I have been there before and I’ve planned for this situation. As a result, I feel more in control and confident of my abilities. I now use Imagery to
prepare for challenging situations as a way to regulate my emotions and get me in a good mindset, it’s great to feel prepared.

The other thing that has really helped was being aware of my activation level. Before, I won’t lie, I was unaware of it, and now that I know where I want to be (excitement level as I start a game), I feel better, like I am in more control of how I am showing up. "

Ava - High School Softball player

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