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Shifting Focus to Build Confidence and Reduce Anxiety: Firing up for the Singapore National Age Group Championships (SNAG) 2015

In your final moments of preparation for the most anticipated annual event for age group swimmers in Singapore you are most likely starting to experience some stress and nervousness along with thoughts running through your head about how you will perform.  You say certain things to yourself or believe certain thing about what might happen and how that will make you feel.  Whatever you are thinking right now, stop for a moment and recognize that you have a choice in how you want to think and feel about SNAG.  Your thoughts can either make you feel scared or make you feel excited to race, make you feel confident or shatter your confidence.

Don’t wait until stress, worry, and anxiety arises to take control, use these strategies during SNAG to bring about more productive thinking, and help you feel excited and confident to race this year!

STOP the worry
When you feel anxious stop and ask yourself, “What am I thinking or saying to myself about the event, about myself, or people’s reactions, that is making me anxious?  Do I have to think or feel this way?  Is it doing me any good?”

Positive Mental Notes
Self-reassurance is very powerful.  Ultimately, only YOU have the power to change your thoughts and feelings.  Set a personal goal to think less in ways that uplift you and boost your confidence:
1.    Recall your past best performances and good recent training sessions.
2.    Remind yourself of meets where you were “off-balance”, sick, or tired and still produced an excellent effort.

Re-interpret the Sensation
Let’s say your heart is pounding and you feel shaken.  You could say to yourself, “I’m so nervous, I don’t know what to do, I’m probably going to race badly”.  Or you could interpret these sensations as totally positive, and say, “Even the best swimmers feel nervous before a race, it’s adrenaline telling my body that I am ready, lets go”.

ACT Positive
Prepare some key actions to perform on deck before each race to help bring about your preference in mood.
•    Relaxed and Calm: If you prefer to be relaxed and calm before racing then you will probably want to listen to music on your mat and stretch quietly.
•    Excited and Cheerful: In contrast, if you prefer to feel excited and cheerful then you might want to talk with your friends, walk around and shake your body out to stay loose and energised.

Distraction Control
Be ready to face potential distractions in a positive way and let them go wit h as little energy as possible.  Expect your swimming friends to behave differently at big meets, even those who normally would be calm and supportive.  Your friends may be upset following a bad race, give them a pat on the back, but don’t take responsibility for their behaviour.  Remind yourself where your focus should be.

The Bounce-Back-Factor
If you do happen to exit the water without a PB in one event, it doesn’t mean the entire meet is a loss for you.  Remind yourself that it is a long week ahead with many events to swim and multiple opportunities to swim a great race.  Talk to your coach for feedback about your race and then once you leave his/her side put it behind you.  Focus on the next race and how you want to approach it.

Lastly, the SNAG meet is planned to help you grow and develop as a swimmer, so enjoy and learn from the experience!

Dr Jay-Lee Longbottom PhD | Psychologist MAPS
Book an appointment to help you develop your mental skills for race day at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre.