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You know that a healthy diet, cross training, and regular practice are vital for your sports performance, but an often-overlooked facet that contributes to a peak performance is mental health. Overcoming performance anxiety through positive self-talk, visualization, and mindfulness will help you maximize your performance.

A vital component of overcoming performance anxiety is recognizing that anxiety is a normal component of high -pressure situations. It is just how you react to that anxiety that makes all the difference. By changing your perception of anxiety, you can harness it in a way that will energize and motivate you. Viewing anxiety in a negative way (such as fear) can lead to jitters, freezing up, or choking up. Viewing butterflies instead as an adrenaline rush that is your body’s natural way of preparing for competition, will help you feel more confident in your game.

A consistent practice schedule is a no-brainer to help overcome anxiety in sports. The benefits are unparalleled for physical performance, but also vital for your mentality and confidence. Confidence helps to overcome thoughts of doubt and perceived lack of ability. A concise game plan with short, memorable items to focus on is necessary for when anxiety kicks in while playing. This could be something like, “keep your eye on the ball,” or “footwork is the framework.” Focus on the task at hand instead of thinking ahead to the final outcome.

If you find yourself having negative self-talk, stop and take a moment to reset through deep breaths. Breathing is a key component of recentering. By focusing only on your breath, you will automatically be pulled into the present. For an athlete, negative internal messages and thoughts are among the biggest contributors to pregame jitters and performance anxiety. Through mindful breathing and positive self-talk you can overcome this. Choose a mantra you can repeat to yourself like, “I got this,” or “I am capable,” and repeat it. Tennis player Rafael Nadal famously shouts, “vamos!” or “c’mon.”

Other techniques include mindfulness and visualization. These will channel your energy and focus it in a way that will make you feel calm and mentally prepared to compete. In the days leading up to the competition mentally rehearse and visualize yourself performing well. Also use visualization to play out potential scenarios so you feel better prepared for whatever is to come.

If needed, once it’s competition time, imagine it is another practice day where you are preparing with your teammates and friends. Much of the time the idea of competition creates anxiety and takes the fun out of sports, so by reminding yourself that you’re there to have fun, you can reframe your experience.

Viewing your anxiety in a positive light, deep breathing, and visualizing a successful outcome are all tools that can help you overcome your anxiety in sports. Remember, “What happens out there is a result of what happens in here”—your athletic performance is the result of what is happening inside your head.