Remember, your imagination needs to be held in check. When you’re nervous it’ll work against you. You start to envision that everything bad that could happen, will happen to you. When we are nervous we are strangely determined that something bad is bound to happen. Why?
I usually find myself freaking out over
these two scenarios:
- The final moments leading up to an important test (the night before and five minutes before)
- The final moments leading up to an important race (the night before and five moments before)
I’m sure you’ve also experienced this feeling. You’ve put in the time to prepare for something important to you, but you start to experience stress and anxiety right before showtime.
- “I hope I took the right steps to prepare for this”
- “Everyone all seems calm but I’m not”
- “What if I fail?”
- “What if I look like an idiot?”
- “I didn’t get enough sleep, I’m not myself
- “This is going to be suck”
- “I’m hungry” (okay, maybe for some people this causes stress and anxiety)
Aside from these phrases, we also may imagine and expect the worst. Why can’t we just screw the negative thoughts and just let our actions take over? Instead of over analyzing something just take the matter into your own hands. When we’re nervous or afraid we have a heightened sense of awareness. Stress and anxiety can be used to move us. In that moment we can decide to use those nerves to our advantage, or direct ourselves to self-destruction.
I’ll illustrate an example where I have used my nerves as an extra source of fuel. The second example will show how your cancerous thoughts of stress and anxiety can overtake you.
A) During the last few weeks of my first track season at NYU, I was heavily disappointed with my performance. I was running times I knew that could be faster. I put in the hard/smart effort with my teammates but I wasn’t letting it show on the track. I had one more race left in the season, but I had just come off of a disastrous scenario where I fell (literally, I ran into a hurdle) in the middle of my race. The stress and anxiety got the best of me.
I was working out a couple of days before this final race with one of the seniors on my team. We had to do a short time trial together but we ended up doing the wrong workout. Frustrated, I complained to my teammate that I ruined my season by not following our coaches’ directions. He calmly reassured me to be positive “you still had an impressive finish.”
Flash forward to five minutes before my heat. I was getting nervous watching all of the other competitors. I kept telling myself all of those negative phrases I listed above (including the hungry one). The same teammate that I worked out with saw enough and stopped me in the middle of my stretches. “Calm down. I already told you during that workout that you had a strong finish. You’ve prepared for this so don’t worry.” When the gun went off I tossed all of the negative self talk away, and I had my best race of the season. I shook off the stress and anxiety.
B) I was coming off of foot injury that kept me out of practice for a couple of weeks. I had an impressive finish to my cross season and we were starting up again with Indoor Track. However, I had self doubt in my head because of the recent foot injury (Doubt that no one else gave me but myself).
I was in a relay race with another upper class teammate of mine and during our warm up together I complained again. He simply told me not to worry and that I was overanalyzing the situation. I was going to be the anchor (final leg) of our relay, so naturally I felt the pressure. Once again, as I watched all of the other competitors I imagined the worst. I told myself that I “wasn’t ready.” This time my teammate wasn’t there to tell me: “you’ve prepared for this, don’t worry.” When the gun went off the negative self talk took over. I wasn’t the one running the race, it was my thoughts making my imagination a reality. Needless to say, I came in dead last.
- I felt sluggish during my race
- I didn’t have a strong finish
- I was racing as if I was already defeated
A couple of days later I received a text from the teammate I warmed up with. He directly told me that I needed to work on my pre-race nerves if I wanted to improve: “You’ve gotta work on staying calm pre-race. Be confident in all of the miles you’ve logged.” To put it simply, we all have to remind ourselves that we’ve put in the work and time to prepare. This is a key way to prevent ourselves from having a negative mindset.
A common theme in these two examples is that I had to have someone else tell me to stay calm and just perform. In the first example, my teammate told me a couple of minutes prior my race that “I was ready.” All of the thoughts in my head disappeared and I wasn’t thinking anymore. I was simply getting the job done in the race. In the downfall example, I didn’t have my teammate with me to tell me that I was ready. It was only before and after the race that my teammate reassured me that everything was good.
In both examples I was extremely nervous, but only in the first example I transformed my stress and anxiety into energy.
I celebrated a successful personal best in the first example, and got last in the second one. We have to learn how to use this heightened sense of awareness to our advantage.
Now I focus on relying on myself whenever I need reassurance. It doesn’t matter when I get nervous. Whether it’s right before a race on the track, or a test in a quiet classroom, my blood always starts pumping. I can feel the nerves lifting me off of the ground, and I laugh to my itself:
- When you’re nervous tell yourself that this is potential energy
- Understand that it’s natural and everyone get’s nervous.
- Know that not everyone else out there is completely calm. They have good Poker-Faces.
- Expect that you’ll try to bring your self down with negative thoughts.
- Use your imagination for your benefit. “Prepare for the worst but expect the best.”
Always take the proper steps to prepare, and then remind yourself that you did so.
There’s no point in lying to yourself that you’re prepared if you didn’t actually prepare. Always be persistent with your efforts.
If you still have problems with relying on yourself for reassurance, focus on music:
- Create a powerful pump up song playlist. PICK STRAIGHT SUPA HOT FIRE TRACKS!
- Choose songs that have positive uplifting messages. Songs about adversity are a huge plus.
- Stay far away from slow depressing music. You want to perform, not sulk behind the curtain.
A Sample of My Own Personal Go To Pump Up Songs/Bands
Positive music can be that friend who reassures you and keeps you from losing your cool. You know you find a good song when you keep on repeating a verse that speaks to you.
Everyone hates the feeling of loneliness. A message in a song that reflects how you’re feeling uplifts you. It fires you up, and you feel the stress and anxiety fade away. On some of these songs the singer literally yells at me, and I view it as a way to blast out all of the nerves. Good pump up songs also feature a rapid pace; with a powerful electric guitar or drum line.
You should go into an event excited to show off what you’ve been working on!