Take it Easy

Unless you’re made from stone K and G at the Start Lineand have ice in your veins, you’ve experienced butterflies right before performing. I know it happens to me before every game I play in my men’s league hockey, before every presentation I give (online, or in person, it doesn’t seem to matter), and even at my daughter’s pre-school (the 2 – 5 year old crowd can be intimidating). I now recognize this nervousness as a good thing. It sends a clear signal to me that my mind and body are ready to perform. The blood starts flowing a little faster, I start filtering out distractions, and I zero in on the task at hand. It’s game time.

However, it doesn’t take much and those nerves can get the better of me. Perhaps I don’t feel as prepared as I’d like or I believe that this next presentation is really, really, really important and Shazam! That nervousness escalates into full blown panic and I just can’t seem to function the way I know I can and should. Maybe you’ve experienced this too?

Here are six different ways that you can reel in your anxiety and perform like a champ.

Deep Breathing

Proper breathing promotes relaxation and gets more oxygen into your blood stream, improving your performance from both a mental and physical perspective. By taking slow deep breaths, you can counteract your body’s physiological response to stress (i.e., breath holding or rapid breathing). Without the physiological markers of stress your brain perceives less stress and you’re able to perform better.


Feeling overwhelmed by a big event can send your stress level through the roof. Whether it’s the “Championship” riding on your performance or the shear size of the competition, using visualization to whisk you away to your “quiet place” will help keep your arousal and emotions in check. My quiet place is sitting on a dock on Georgian Bay at dusk in late August. I can see the sun setting over the water, hear small waves lapping on the rock, smell the trees, and best of all, there are no mosquitos.


Meditation Meditating Dognot only allows you to relax but it can also help you develop your concentration skills when you use it regularly. All you need is a quiet place where you can sit (or lie down) comfortably for 10 – 20 minutes, a passive attitude, and something to focus on (either a mantra or a physical object). If any distracting thoughts pop up, that’s okay, let them pass and refocus. You should also take a few minutes to “come alive” again at the end of the session, so don’t start meditating too close to your time in the ring.

Muscle Relaxation

Where the body goes the brain will follow. Techniques like active progressive relaxation direct your attention inward, on the contrasting sensations of tension and relaxation in your muscles. As you move systematically through the different parts of your body, first tensing the muscles and then relaxing them, your mind will tag along too. You can even use a very brief tense and relax with your fists/hands right before you step to keep your arousal level where you want it.


Stretching as a warm-up is no longer in vogue (in fact some research shows that it can increase your risk of injury), but using it as a way to relax works very well. Once you’ve got your body ready with a dynamic warm-up you can use some simple stretching manoeuvres to help bring calm to your thoughts.


Ever increasing in popularity as an effective and enjoyable way to exercise, yoga encompasses many of the items already on this list. Needless to say, it can help you find some inner peace through controlled breathing, meditation, and stretching.

What ways do you try and relax when you feel that your nerves are getting the best of you? Share with us in the comments.



Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

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  1. Kristi
    5 years ago

    My children would be appalled how often I apply what I learn about agility (both about my performance and about animal behavior) to parenting…I think it’s a win-win for all of us. Focused and effective, even under pressure, whether driving car pool or at the start line. Great list, John. Thanks.

  2. Michele Fry
    5 years ago

    I play with my dogs before we go into the ring, repeat the mantra “We run as one” as I look into his/her eyes, laugh, and remember we are just doing this for fun. Whether we Q or not makes not one jot of difference in the grand scheme of life. It won’t solve the world’s social or political problems. I keep the game in perspective this way, and relax.

    I also do the deep breathing, visualization, stretching and other excellent things you recommend.

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