What is Pre-Competition Anxiety?
By Kathryn Mellon – iNSPIRE Psychologist
The moment you have been training, preparing for and dreamed about has finally arrived. You are physically prepared and ready for this moment, but there are doubts in the back of your mind. Your heart might be racing, and you feel butterflies in your stomach. It is a normal part of competition to be nervous, otherwise you probably don’t care too much about what you are doing. However, there are times when we experience over arousal and it affects our focus and ability to perform at our peak. This is what we call Pre-competition Anxiety.
I bet there are times where you have an upset stomach or tight chest and attribute this to a physical issue. Chances are if you have done everything right – slept well, eaten nutritious food and not suffering from an illness, then it’s unlikely these symptoms are caused by a physical issue. The effects that anxiety can have go long beyond making you jittery before competition if you can’t get on top of them. Frustration, anger, difficulty concentrating, nervous pees, increased blood pressure and loss of hair are just some of the symptoms that over arousal and high levels of anxiety can cause.
Question is why and how does this happen?
*WARNING SCIENCE ALERT*
Anxiety has an impact on the whole-body response. It releases chemicals that send your body into survival mode – your heart rate increases as the heart tries to pump more oxygen around the body, your muscles tense and may tremble as they prime ready for action and the response makes our bladder muscles contract which is why you probably feel like you constantly need to pee. Now this doesn’t exactly sound like ideal conditions right before we head out to compete does it! This is why we need to be able to calm our body down in order to perform at our peak.
That’s the physical response in a nutshell. That’s not the only thing you have to contend with if you fall victim to pre-competition anxiety. The psychological effects may be slightly more hidden but that doesn’t mean they can’t cause havoc if you let them.
Think about it this way – what is it that you are anxious about or worried about before you go out to compete? Letting your team down, not executing properly or not performing to your best? The thing is, if we are thinking about all of these things before we go out to compete, what are we not thinking about? How to properly execute what we practice time and time again in training. I don’t know about you, but my mind only has limited amount of concentration. So, if you’re concentrating on what could go wrong, how are you ever supposed to focus on what could go right? By the way, isn’t it exhausting feel stressed and anxious over something that hasn’t even happened?
Apologies if I’ve now made you feel even more stressed out about some of these things, but I did it for a good reason. There is no reason to stress any longer because the good news is we have a solution for you, and more blogs!
Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for the release of the iNSPIRE Performance Anxiety series to learn how to control all of the above and perform at your peak.