Emotional regulation is presenting a real challenge for athletes in this “post covid” competition season. Inconsistency of training and lack of competition experience are just two of the things athletes are dealing with. It is our natural inclination to hold heavy thoughts and emotions in, especially if you struggle with perfectionism. However, holding them in causes a build up and tension that leads to overwhelming feelings of anxiety, panic, and fear that can negatively impact performance.
Notice your Nerves
As competition approaches, pre-competition week jitters are going to present themselves. Although it is uncomfortable to notice these feelings, it is necessary. Ask yourself, “how does my body present nerves physically, emotionally and behaviourally”? Make a list or talk through this with someone you trust. The act of bringing awareness to how your nerves show up in your body helps to release some of the tension they create. It also normalizes the experience and allows you to anticipate the nerves even before they present themselves.
Measure your emotions
Measuring your nerves or frustration on a scale from 1-10 can be a great way to keep these emotions in check. Often times we are not aware of our emotions rising and it feels like we go from 0-60 in a few seconds. One minute we are calm and the next we are enraged. I use a colour coded scale for my athletes to gage their emotions.
The key is to stay in the green or yellow zone and not allow heavy emotions to climb into the red zone. Once in the red zone, they will not be able to reset and the practice is gone bad. I encourage athletes to set a reminder on their phone for every 15 minutes to rate their frustration. If they notice the number climbing, they can implement a reset strategy like deep breathing to reduce it.
Feel all the Feelings
Remember that all feelings are valid and necessary. Stay away from labeling certain feelings as positive and others as negative. Instead, referring to them as light or heavy can take the emphasis away from judgement. Once you feel the feeling you can choose to detach from it and “put it on the shelf” while you focus in and do your job. They will be there waiting for you on your way off the ice if you decide you want to take them with you!