A competition can either be an amazing, fulfilling experience or a frightening and soul-crushing one. And this doesn’t depend just on whether or not you’ll win the match and/or the tournament… It also depends, in large part, on how you’ll approach the whole ordeal; on how well you’ll deal with anxiety and fear beforehand.
If you deal with these negative emotions in a constructive fashion, you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience competing than it would be the case otherwise. Therefore, let’s see how to better manage them.
FEAR AND ANXIETY WILL BE THERE REGARDLESS
The one thing that you should do before anything else is to come to an understanding that no – you can’t get rid of fear and anxiety completely. They will always be there! Sure, they will shrink with time and as you expose yourself to situations that harbor them… But these emotions are normal and they will always be present, to one degree or another.
So what can you do, then? Don’t have a goal of being totally free from fear and anxiety. If you set this as an aim, you’ll just get even more nervous because you’re failing. Instead, acknowledge that these two emotions will always be around you – just like your opponent’s submission attempts! You could get tapped out at any point in time, but the thing which’ll save you isn’t the lack of opponent’s skill; but how well you defend.
TAKE ON THE „CHALLENGE ACCEPTED“ MENTALITY
Therefore, what you need is not less anxiety and fear, but more courage! And the best way to build more courage is to expose yourself to exactly those situations that make you feel uncomfortable.
With each nerve-wrecking scenario you find yourself in, you’ll become more resilient for the next one. Your level of stress tolerance will increase and soon you’ll notice – without consciously trying to – that you’re becoming better at dealing with it.
In other words, the more you compete, the better you’ll become at dealing with negative emotions. So step on those competition mats as soon as possible and rack up as many matches as you can!
STOP THINKING AND COME BACK INTO YOUR BODY
Now, as unrealistic as it is to become totally free from the shackles of fear and anxiety, it’s equally as ludicrous to try and manage these problems by thinking about them. Your insecurities grow inside your mind – and trying to „think“ them away just adds to the problem! (Don’t think about purple elephants. No, don’t… See what we mean?)
You can’t solve these problems by attacking them at the same place they came from – your head. Instead of trying to force yourself to think positive (which is widely advised today), come back into your body.
That is, do something physical to sweat the negative thoughts and feelings away. For instance, warm up thoroughly – or get in a light roll with your training partner. This will help with those adrenaline spikes as well.
Also, breathe. Breathe! Notice how your breath gets shallow when you’re afraid, how your body tenses up as a by-product… To loosen up, in addition to being physically active, take big belly breaths whenever you can. Perhaps even try to set aside a minute or two to sit and meditate; focus on those tensed up parts of your body and breathe them away.
All in all, realize that fear and anxiety will always be there. You don’t need to get rid of these emotions, but what you must do is build courage. Therefore, do the thing you’re afraid to do; and make sure to move and breathe through it.