Whether you’re on a first date, in a boardroom or on the ice, staying cool and calm under pressure will ensure that you can perform at your optimum capacity and make the absolute best of what you have to offer. If you lack the adequate amount of composure, you will be unable to efficiently put your talents to use, both strategically and physically. The ability to withstand a crisis or nervous reaction will undoubtedly be the element that sets you apart from everyone else. While you may never become the adrenaline junkie that thrives best under pressure, learning to effectively manage your ability to perform under intense conditions will enable you to ensure that you do not allow your performance to suffer due to adverse reaction.
One of the best ways to manage this is to alter the way in which you perceive the circumstances. Do you interpret the situation as a challenge to embrace or a threat? Do you concern yourself with your own personal performance or are you more concerned with how you will be perceived by others? If you can effectively control this perception, you will be able to harness the energy of that pressure to be used as a motivator as opposed to a feeling of anxiousness and fear.
In addition to controlling your inner dialogue, you can also take some physical steps that will assist you in getting control over any kind of emotional reaction that you are experiencing as a direct result of feeling pressured.
First of all, slow down. If you feel tension in any area of your body, take your speed down a beat and be completely aware of your movements. Be more deliberate but don’t overthink your actions. Just do as you plan with a bit more focus. Then take a deep, long breath. It will automatically slow your heart beat and control any nervous impulses. Inhale deeply through your nose until you feel your abdomen extend and then push the breath out through your mouth. Taking a couple of these with an awareness of maximizing how much air you take in will immediately calm you. You can do this at absolutely any time, regardless of where you are or what you are doing.
If you have a minute, create a fist and squeeze very tightly and hold that for a few minutes without releasing at all. When you release the fist, you will feel yourself relax and sense the blood flowing to the area of the released contraction. Do this with a couple of different muscle areas like squeezing your shoulders or flexing your foot, then holding and releasing. The tension that you are experience will dissipate more with each one.
Make sure to control your inner dialogue and to keep your thoughts positive and encouraging. Do not reiterate your fear to yourself in your mind. Skirt around it with positive affirmations about how you will succeed in your play and your performance. You can self-coach yourself through a moment of anxiety rather quickly and if your nervousness goes deeper, take some time prior to a game to have a fifteen minute inner pep talk.
Finally, try to channel your nervous energy in a helpful way. Greater adrenaline may help you skate more quickly or respond more accurately to a moving puck. Try to regard this nervousness as a “rush” or a “thrill” and you’ll be able to use it to your advantage instead of choking under pressure.