The "A" Word
Google defines anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”. But the truth is there are so many different types, vastly different experiences, and countless boxes we can try to fit anxiety into. Every person would probably describe it a little differently but the common theme remains the same- an inner turmoil and a desire to find peace.
Being an athlete that experiences anxiety, whether it’s every so often or literally every single day, can be challenging and interfere with the goals you want to achieve. Sometimes you’re thankful for the workout to keep you busy and distract your thoughts, while other times you’re consumed with the fear of screwing up so bad that you’ll get laughed right out of the gym. Will today be a good day or a bad one? What about the day after that?
So what can we do? How can we find our peace, be content with ourselves, settle our minds, and get a workout in too? These tips might not solve it all, but they can definitely help:
*Take control of your thought life. Whether we want to believe it or not, our thoughts inside affect us on the outside. Most people find that they speak much more harsh to themselves than they would ever speak to someone they love. Be kind to yourself! Next time you’re punishing yourself inside your head, imagine saying that out loud to someone else. Chances are you’ll realize “Wow that is rude, I don’t want to talk like that!”
*Small goals are key! And understanding that progress doesn’t happen overnight. So you check Wodify, and it’s a running WOD with barbell movements and wallballs. You hate all of those things. What do you do? I encourage you, instead of skipping that day, come in with with a small goal to accomplish. Maybe it’s jogging all the 400s unbroken, maybe it’s jogging just ONE of the 400s unbroken, or maybe it’s actually sticking to your plan of how to break up sets with the barbell (my personal favorite “accomplished feeling”). Perhaps it’s even so small as to say you’ll only stop to drink water one time, instead of your usual three water breaks.
Give yourself a small goal that you can accomplish that day and look back on to feel proud of. I’ve found that having big goals hanging over your head like “Ok I want to go sub 10 minutes and have every single set be perfectly unbroken”.... rarely happens and usually leaves you feeling discouraged. Challenge yourself but also have grace for yourself and know that little steps of progress are still steps.
*Do something that you don’t want to do. How is it that some athletes seem so fearless and mentally strong? Were they always that way or did they just decide to start challenging themselves one day and that lead to a stronger state of mind? In either case, you can grow your mental strength and you can push the boundaries of your comfort zone out just a little farther. Not all at once, but little by little. Once a week, start doing something that you don’t want to do. Do something that scares you. Do something that you know you absolutely hate, but is good for you. In my personal experience, I have found that the rewarding feeling after doing this is pretty incredible. You will feel like a mental strength warrior! You can really get creative here. Maybe it’s fighting yourself to get out of bed in the morning when you were planning on going back to sleep. Maybe you stay to spend 5 minutes after class working on that kip, when you’re usually too afraid of looking like a flopping dead fish. I’m not going to lie, the anxiety before doing this can be pretty scary but if you push through it and force yourself to get it done, you WILL feel strong and you will grow into a better athlete.
*Lastly, know that if someone ever makes you feel lesser or weak, that is a reflection of them and NOT you.Enough said. Really let that sink in. Once I did, I felt a huge burden lifted off of me. If you can honestly say you did your best, and someone has a problem with that or makes you feel not good enough, that’s a problem that they have and not you. The athletes with heart, the ones that continue to give their best effort no matter what, keeping their eyes forward, those are the stronger athletes. I think you'll be surprised just how many athletes are experiencing similar emotions and thinking similar thoughts. We work hard to cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance, encouragement, and love. It won't be easy, but you can take steps towards becoming a mental strength warrior and keeping your anxiety in check.