Optimizing Your Daily Routine to Conquer Mental Barriers in Sports
No one has ever drowned in sweat.
-Lou Holtz, Football Coach
But mental blocks can end up controlling you. They will sneak into your mind when you least need them. Low self-confidence, fear of failure, negative self-talk — these are only several blocks that interfere between you and your greatest potential.
If you’re serious about working with those barriers and even overcoming them for good, you have to start somewhere. Most often, the most obvious start is in your daily routine. In the way you spend your time, in the way you train, eat, sleep, and talk to yourself. While all these aspects are obvious, they can make or break your discipline, self-confidence, and ability to make progress. In this article, we will teach you how to create a routine that empowers you to conquer those fears and blocks that keep you stuck. We will mainly focus on mental training, but we will incorporate some health-related habits that may play a role in how you’re feeling.
The biggest mental barriers in sports
Mental blocks are associated with thoughts, emotions, sensations, and behaviours that keep you from performing at your best. Imagine that you train hard every day in preparation for a big competition. You have the skills, practice, and talent you need to give it your best. Yet on the competition day, you start getting nervous. Your emotions are so intense that all you can think about is how you will fail and disappoint your loved one. That’s how a mental block shows up. It’s that underlying fear that you just can’t make go away. Some common mental barriers examples that many athletes face are:
- Low confidence: this shows up as self-doubt, lack of trust in your skill, and fear of taking risks.
- Perfectionism: wanting to do everything at the highest standards, and avoiding taking action due to fear of not living up to them.
- Performance anxiety: intense nerves before and during a game that destroy your ability to focus or enjoy the game.
- Self-criticism: excessively focusing on your mistakes and diminishing the things you do well.
There are a few other types of mental barriers, but for the scope of this article, we won’t go into too much detail. Instead, our focus will be to provide you with some tips to work through your own mental blocks in sports.
Supporting the body
Before working on your mindset, confidence, and focus, start with the basics. Are you taking as much rest as you need? Do you nourish yourself with nutritious foods? Do you have some basic well-being practices that allow you to decompress at the end of a difficult day? Your body is the home of your mind. This means that whatever positive changes you make to your physical health, your mind will be better equipped to deal with the ‘higher level’ stuff.
Breaking mental barriers should always start with getting your sleep, nutrition, rest, and time management right. However, don’t complicate this too much. The most impactful lifestyle choices are the most simple ones. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night, eating a nutritious diet, and taking time for yourself are key foundational behaviours that prepare the ground for more complex psychological barriers solutions.
Setting time aside for yourself
Training the mind for success
Training your mind can be approached in a similar way to training the body. In athletics, you already know that the more you train a muscle, the stronger it becomes. In mental training, the more you practice an emotion, thought, or behavior, the more familiar it will become to you. If what you’re practicing on a daily basis is fear, limiting beliefs, and negative self-talk, guess what you’re gonna experience? More fear, limiting beliefs, and negative self-talk.
The scope of mental training is to rewire your brain to experience new emotions and thoughts that will help you in your battle against mental barriers. Now, the question that might pop into your mind is “ok, so how do I train my mind? What do I specifically need to do on a daily basis?”
If you’re new to the sphere of the personal development world, there’s no need to start with complicated mental training practices. Just begin by choosing one single method of changing how you think. This could be:
- Mental rehearsal
- Goal setting
- Mindfulness meditation
- Positive self-talk
Each of these tools is safe to practice daily. For example, if you choose mental rehearsal as a way of reducing your mental barriers to success, you can recreate a pre-performance routine in your mind and go through it multiple times. If you practice it daily, it will be a lot easier for you to access this rehearsal before a game, because your mind will have already stored all the visual stimuli.
With other tools such as visualization, you can imagine yourself playing at your best or you can bring to mind the most confident version of yourself. This way, it will be a lot easier for you to connect to that whenever you feel less confident in yourself.
Check-in with your mental health
Develop the habit of asking yourself daily — where am I right now emotionally? How do I feel about where my life is going? Is there any area where I’d need a little bit more support?
Checking in with your mental health allows you to identify and respond to any unmet needs. On the longer term, this translates to better care for yourself.
Breaking through your mental barriers in sports is possible
The key to overcoming those mental barriers lies in your daily actions. How do you support yourself through your lifestyle choices, the people you surround yourself with, and the thoughts you choose to listen to? Every single routine in your life either feeds or fights your mental barriers. In this article, we have outlined 4 critical aspects that any athlete should incorporate into their life.
- Supporting your physical health
- Prioritise yourself
- Train your mind
- Keep an eye on your mental health
Even if you do nothing but apply those tips, you will likely see some improvement in your confidence in sports. Why not start by applying one today?