Well Being

8 Strategies to Calm Your Nerves Before a Game or Competition


One of the most feared situtions in the world of sports is the nerves before a game. Despite being a very common phenomenon, the truth is that if you don’t pay attention to it, it ends up ruining all the preparation you’ve done.

That’s why sports psychology works so that the individual learns to be able to recognize and regulate their negative emotions with the aim of not causing an unpleasant episode before or during the activity. Next, let’s see what those psychological tricks are to calm fear before a competition.

Identify why you get nervous

Nervousness before an important event is something that almost all athletes will have experienced at some point. The causes are multiple, but there are still some that are systematically repeated.

The main reason has to do with the way in which the athlete perceives themself and their ability to face the competition. If you have sufficient resources and preparation, your nervousness will be less. Another reason has to do with the evaluation of the rival. Those competitors who are stronger or with better results awaken pessimistic thoughts.

Finally, it’s also important to mention the weight that expectations, your own and those of others, have in triggering fear before a game. As these expectations become more demanding or the fear of disappointing others comes into play, anxiety will grow.

What can you do before the game to calm your nerves?

Getting ready before competing has to do with much more than what you do while training. Every gesture matters, so you must pay attention to your habits, both on and off the field. See what changes you can introduce to be better prepared and ward off nerves before a match.

1. Rest well

A good rest is a fundamental requirement to compete well. Some athletes downplay this aspect and even reduce hours of sleep to continue training. This is a serious mistake that puts both your performance and health at risk.

If you’re one of those people who gets nervous before playing, you should focus on enhancing sleep hygiene the week before a competition. Having a structured rest schedule, eating light dinners, and limiting screen use before bed are just examples of small adjustments that promote rest.

The key is to learn to fall asleep and adjust your lifestyle, in addition to not depending on pharmacological support.

2. Establish pre-competition routines

You relieve nerves before a game if you have a planned and structured competition. Habits help you find peace of mind when your mind is restless. Athletes who receive mental training use pre-competition routines.

These are sequences of actions that they repeat at important moments to help them concentrate and calm their nerves. For example, preparing the bag, warming up in the same way, or repeating a phrase several times.

We must keep in mind that having a routine isn’t the same as being superstitious. In the latter, a person performs an action because they believe that it’ll bring good luck (or bad luck if they don’t perform it). Therefore, it’s not an issue that depends on fortune, but rather on gaining concentration and finding an optimal level of activation before a competition.

3. Spend time studying the opponent and the field

Preparation for a competition doesn’t only include the work that’s done individually. When having to face a rival in a changing context, a very successful strategy is to spend time examining the opponent.

The goal is to anticipate their movements, and although not everything can be predicted, it’s useful to establish patterns of similarity. Lack of information and uncertainty are two causes of nervousness. Therefore, understanding your opponent is a very good idea to control anxiety before competing.

Strategies to calm your nerves

Once you start to notice nervousness, you must act. Otherwise, they’ll end up getting out of control. The following strategies are the most used by sports psychology :

1. Identify anxious thoughts

In many cases, precompetitive nerves have an origin that’s more internal than external. These are the negative and pessimistic thoughts that the person has regarding the present and the future. Reflections such as “I’m not capable of improving,” “I’m a bad athlete,” or “I’ll never succeed” are just examples of phrases that generate powerful emotions of frustration.

When you feel your head starting to race and enter a loop of harmfulness, take a break and try to change your attitude. Keep in mind that what you think and what you do go hand in hand. Replace negative reflections with motivational phrases to achieve goals in sports.

2. Visualize yourself being successful

Sports psychology harnesses the power of imagination to generate positive emotions. Techniques that are based on this ability, especially visualization, are of great help due to their ease of learning and application as well as their enormous benefits.

In this regard, creating a context in the mind is also a way to make it predictable and more manageable, as suggested by a study from Bernardo O’Higgins University. The same research points out other techniques, such as relaxation and monologue, which have been applied in various sports with satisfactory results.

3. Share how you feel with your loved ones

Words have a therapeutic power that often goes unnoticed. Think about a time you felt overwhelmed and found someone to share it with. It surely relieved you to put into words what you had inside and also receive a loving response from the other person.

Therefore, one way to reduce nerves before a game is to talk about it with whoever you’re close to. It can be a coach, your teammates, family, or anyone who’s part of your trusted inner circle and is willing to listen to you.

4. Practice deep breathing techniques

The main manifestation of anxiety is on the physical level. Symptoms such as tachycardia, sweating, or stomach pain often hide a psychological alteration. Therefore, the athlete must learn to identify and treat these signs. The most common way to do this is through breathing techniques.

A study by the Michoacana University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo, carried out with swimmers, concluded that exercises that induced relaxation were used by athletes in the moments prior to the competition; They managed to reduce their activation level.

5. Reevaluate what expectations you have

All athletes have expectations regarding themselves and others. This is a normal process and shouldn’t be a problem. However, when expectations go beyond what the person is actually capable of giving, they become a stressor.

We recommend you stop for a moment to examine your expectations and to what extent they match up with immediate reality. Also, you should do this with regard to the expectations of others, separating it from yourself. In other words, the fact that your coach expects to win the soccer game against the strongest rival is one thing, but it’s not good to put it on yourself as if it were a responsibility or obligation.

6. Give defeat another meaning

Precompetition anxiety is also caused by beliefs about possible defeat. Believing that it’s very significant or seeing it as a true loss doesn’t help you relax your nerves before a game or competition.

On the other hand, giving it a more reassuring interpretation is useful to reduce the fear of failure. A lost game isn’t a fall, but rather the opportunity to learn new things and continue growing.

7. Boost self-confidence

Self-confidence is a protective factor against anxiety. Anyone who trusts in their abilities and has a good image of themself will have more peace of mind when facing a difficult situation.

One way to increase self-confidence is to list your strengths in all facets of performance: Physical, technical, strategic, and psychological. These notes should be reviewed several times a day to internalize them so that in nervous moments before the game, you remember the qualities and feel more supported.

In that regard, according to a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity Sciences, self-confidence is a factor that contributes to lower levels of anxiety.

8. Focus on the things that you can control

When you don’t know what to do to avoid being overwhelmed by nerves before a game, it’s worth remembering that wanting to control everything is what overwhelms and frustrates you. As much as you’d like to have control over what happens in a competition, this isn’t possible. In fact, there are more things that are beyond our control than those that we can manage.

Therefore, focus your attention and efforts on what’s under your control: Your thoughts, behaviors, habits, and emotions. Beyond that, it’s unknown territory, which you must learn to tolerate rather than control.

Don’t let a bad time ruin all your effort

Nervousness before a game is a normal reaction to a novel or personally important event. Now, you have to understand them, rationalize them, and control them so they don’t increase in intensity.

One of the most frustrating situations that athletes report is when restlessness ruins all the effort they’ve put in. Therefore, mental training is the best solution; put it into practice, and you’ll soon begin to notice its benefits.

On the other hand, there are those who prefer immediate solutions and seek to “take something” to avoid getting nervous, such as pills. But it’s better not to depend on external help and learn how to find calm on your own. And we can’t help but recommend that you consider enlisting the help of a sports psychologist to treat any unpleasant sensations.

The post 8 Strategies to Calm Your Nerves Before a Game or Competition appeared first on Exploring your mind.


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