Don’t Sweat It: How to Overcome Nerves & Stress
Nerves & Stress.
Blood pounding in your ears. Shaky hands. Unsteady breathing and unfocused gaze. Every athlete knows what pregame nerves feel like. They also know how much they can throw us off our game.
That’s why part of every athlete’s journey to success is learning to master their nerves. It helps to understand how they work—what’s going on in your brain and body, in broad strokes. Then there are both physical and mental techniques for helping yourself calm down and get back in the game.
Our Deep Dive into the science of nerves and stress is a one-stop guide to managing nerves both on and off the field. Parents and coaches will find valuable insights alongside practical, everyday trips for helping their student-athletes play and feel their best. Download now:
Top Mental Barriers: Nerves & Stress
WHAT IT IS
One half of stress is physical. It comes from too much activity in a major brain circuit called the “HPA axis,” which can flood our bodies with adrenaline and other hormones. In moderation, that’s good thing. But when we get stressed or start to buckle under pressure, the HPA axis goes into overdrive and we get flooded. Those effects can be reduced using physical skills like breathing and relaxation.
The other half of stress is mental. It’s about how we think about things—how we estimate risk, how we respond to fear, how we talk to ourselves and what we choose to focus on. Building core psychological skills like self-awareness and mindfulness can offer a path forward.
Why it Matters for Athletic Performance
Both sides of the stress response make it hard to play well. For one thing, stress slows us down mentally and physically, making it hard to focus and stopping our training from taking over. We get less precise and less alert. For another, it takes our focus away from the game, making us worry about failure or the chance we’ll make a mistake instead of focusing on how and when we need to act.
How to Improve
The good news here is that stress is one of the best-studied areas of sports psychology. There are dozens of techniques to help athletes prepare for competitions, stay focused, and stay grounded—and we cover the most useful of them in our Deep Dive. Download it now to see for yourself:
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