Coping with pre-match tension

Before a big game or sporting event, everyone will be a little nervous. However, for those who experience severe symptoms associated with social anxiety disorder (SAD), the quality of their athletic performance is often affected.

The relationship between anxiety and athletic performance is so strongThe entire field of psychology-sports psychology-has been dedicated to helping athletes fight nerves. Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies you can use to help overcome the tension on match day and control anxiety before it gets out of control.


Many elite athletes use visualization to improve performance, build confidence, and control anxiety. Visualization, also called imagery or mental rehearsal, involves imagining yourself successfully competing in a sporting event.

In order for the visualization to work, close your eyes and imagine the body movements you would make to succeed in the game. Try to imagine yourself moving at the same speed as in real life.

In addition, please make sure that you imagine from your own perspective, not from the observer’s perspective. You should watch the scene (crowd, venue) as if you were there-rather than watching yourself compete.

Some tips for making visualization work? Do everything possible to make the imaginary experience as real as possible.

  • If going to an empty football field and sitting on a bench can help you make your imaginary experience more real, then make sure to do so.
  • If crowd noise may distract you during the game, please see if you can find a recording with crowd noise, which you can play while imagining the event.
  • Imagine what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Using all five senses can help create a powerful image that looks more real.
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No matter what you can do to make the imaginary experience real, it will help turn your imagination into your achievements.

Target setting

Clearly defined goals help measure success-but goals that are too high can make you overwhelmed and uncertain about your abilities. Choose achievable but challenging goals and break down the task into smaller parts with a series of short-term goals if possible.

Relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques can help reduce physical symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, and rapid and shallow breathing. These techniques can be used at any time before a performance or competition, and may be especially useful when practicing the night before or a few hours before the event to help keep tension.

The two most common relaxation techniques are diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Cognitive reconstruction

Cognitive reconstruction refers to changing the habitual way of thinking. In the case of anxiety about athletic performance, cognitive reorganization can help you change any negative thoughts about physical symptoms that may cause anxiety – such as physical arousal – just like the ability of elite athletes to transform arousal into excitement and meet challenges.

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Changing your view of the game will also help. Thinking about the game like a practice may bring you less stress and make you less important to major games, thereby reducing anxiety about your performance.

Being aware of your thoughts and feelings is the key to managing the cognitive symptoms of anxiety. Recognizing negative thoughts when they first enter your mind, you can stop them before they dominate, so you can replace them with more positive thoughts.

Get advice from the VigorTip Mind podcast

This episode of The VigorTip Mind Podcast, hosted by LCSW’s editor-in-chief and therapist Amy Morin, shares strategies for creating a positive mindset, with TB12 CEO John Burns as the protagonist.

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Cultivate self-confidence

If you often crash under pressure, it’s hard to imagine being confident in the game. However, you can take specific steps to help increase your self-confidence.

Focus on past successes rather than failures, and remind yourself of those successes. Make practice and preparation a priority and continue until you have no doubt about your ability to succeed.

Are you still worrying about self-confidence? Remember to visualize. Imagine yourself competing with confidence over and over again until this becomes your new reality.


Of course, you don’t want to be distracted during the game, but just before the game-why not? Talk to teammates or other competitors, read books, listen to music—anything that helps prevent negative thoughts.

Focus on what you can control

If you find yourself worrying about who in the crowd is watching you, or other competitors are better than you, please remind yourself that these are aspects of competition that you cannot control.

What you can control is your own performance, your preparation, and the extent to which you implement techniques and strategies such as progressive muscle relaxation and imagery.

Unfortunately, some people experience severe anxiety during athletic performance, and this anxiety is not improved by using self-help strategies. In fact, sometimes just visiting the therapist can improve the usefulness of these strategies-first because you are responsible to someone for the work you do and the progress you make, and secondly because someone believes you can become better. good.

If your symptoms are getting worse, please consider talking to your doctor or requesting a referral to a mental health professional who can determine whether you meet the diagnostic criteria for SAD or other anxiety disorders and which treatment is best for your situation.