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Have you ever had the “nerves” or felt anxiety when you have completed? Chances are if you are an athlete you have. So, before you read the rest of this article, stop for a moment, and gather these ingredients:
*A Glass of water
*Baking soda ( you need a tablespoon)
Directions: Fill the glass with water, about 75% full. Now pour the baking soda in it. Let it all settle to the bottom. The water is clear and the powder is at the bottom.
Anxiety and Baking Soda Mind
Athletes and performers minds can be compared to this glass of water and baking soda. When we are in a good place with training or competing we can settle our thoughts. We might have a few worries bubble up but we can settle these.
(side note: I want to credit Sara Isakovic for sharing this idea with me!)
Now stir it and watch how cloudy the water gets. When we are anxious and have too many things we are thinking about before practice or competing for our mind can become cloudy and it becomes hard to have a clear focus. The lack of clear focus can lead to stressful or anxious thoughts resulting in feeling more butterflies or nerves. This is a good visual aid to add to your mental toolbox. The first step is being aware that your water is cloudy, which mean stress is setting in. The trick is to learn how to let the thoughts settle. There are two tools we can use to settle the baking soda in our head: BP is what I label these tools and it stands for Breathing and Perspective. BP
Breathing and Anxiety
Breathing is a natural, built-in tool that every person can use to calm nerves. Think of a child who is crying hard. Sometimes they sort of gasp for air and this is the natural mechanism of the body saying, “breath, breathe, it will help you.” One easy breathing technique is combining heart breathing and counting. Imagine for a moment, breathing in and out of your heart center. When you breathe in say the words, “I am breathing in, one, two;”
then pause for a moment;
then say in your mind while you exhale, “I am breathing out one, two three, four.” Attempt to say the words in a steady state as your breathe in and breathe out. Make you exhale longer. Try this and see if this helps. The words are a focusing tool for your mind and naming your actions, “I am breathing in one, too.”, help to calm the body.
Perspective and Anxiety
Perspective simply means are you putting your thoughts on what matters. If you are worried about the outcome or being embarrassed in front of a coach or family member, then breathe in like above and find a different perspective. Oftentimes what we are worrying about will not help us compete better, it simply stirs the baking soda. Be mindful because you can learn to redirect your thoughts and gain perspective. When you gain perspective it is also easier to find more positive thoughts and a better direction for your head.