Most of us don’t like feeling nervous, and yet it is an inevitable part of great performance.
Here are some ideas for dealing with ring nerves.
The Physical Sensations
If you are nervous, what physical sensations do you have? Upset stomach, nausea, sweaty palms, rapid breathing and heart rate, frequent trips to the bathroom…okay, before we hit the too much information point, you get the idea.
Now, when you are feeling excited, what are the physical sensations you have? Hmmmm, not all that different from being nervous, is it?
Embrace Your Nerves
First of all, reframe your outlook on these physical sensations. Everyone goes into competition feeling nervous (even if they don’t admit it). Accept they are a part of competition, almost think of it as embracing it, and you enjoy those feelings because you know your body is prepared for action.
Say things to yourself like ‘Bring it on’, ‘I can’t wait’, ‘Let’s do it’ or ‘I love the challenge’ to create a ‘lean in’ attitude for those sensations, rather than a scared attitude. Keep saying it over and over to yourself.
Redirect Your Focus
Don’t try to ‘make’ yourself feel less nervous. It will only make things worse. It works better to make yourself less nervous through indirect means, such as focusing on your pre-performance routines, listening to relaxing music, or thinking of something that gives you perspective on life or makes you laugh.
Another way to control your nerves is to focus on your breathing. Shallow breathing creates tension. Focus on breathing in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. Drop your shoulders and relax, as that’s where we hold most of our tension.
Laugh At Yourself
Back in the day I used to play basketball as a starter for a university team that was a perennial contender for the national championship. I would literally be gagging as I walked out onto the floor at the start of the game. I was trying so hard not to gag because I didn’t want to toss my cookies in front of hundreds of people.
I decided to try the opposite approach. I would joke with myself about trying to gag more. I decided to like gagging because it meant I was ready to play. Of course, although it sounds a bit ridiculous, the gagging went away. I still get the gagging sensation occasionally, but now I can laugh at it. Maybe you can at least laugh at my story to get rid of your nerves!
Put It In Perspective
Probably the most important thing is to recognize the reason you feel nervous is your ego is being threatened. So what happens if things don’t go well? You don’t die. It’s not world peace and it’s not world hunger.
Let me put it this way…say the Earth was about to be hit by a meteor, and we were all going to die, how important would that competition or business deal be to you? Probably wouldn’t be that important anymore. Now, if you then found out the meteor had been destroyed and we were all going to live after all, imagine the joy and passion and joie de vie (love of life) you would now perform with.
What originally seemed like a do-or-die situation is put into perspective and becomes very manageable. You would have a great performance, because instead of analyzing and worrying, you would just go for it…for the joy of doing it.
And that, my friends, is the secret to great performance…being in the moment.