Do You Have Sports Performance Anxiety?
For many professional athletes, the pressure to maintain a strong image comes with the cost of hiding their struggles with mental health. Performance anxiety, while it affects many athletes, is rarely talked about in the realm of sports.
The performance anxiety you may be feeling as an athlete, although often kept secret, is more common that you would think. Although many athletes do suffer from sports performance anxiety, often brought on by the pressure to perform consistently at a very high level, this internal battle is usually hidden in an attempt to avoid a weak image and to be accepted by fans and fellow athletes.
This notion, known as social desirability phenomenon, is the reason that many athletes try to conceal their mental struggles for the sake of greater public appeal. This desire to appear as if everything is normal only adds pressure to the athlete, who is avoiding rather than confronting the issue.
In concealing your struggle with anxiety, then, you are not only harming yourself, but isolating those also suffering with these issues. It is not only the fear of admitting something is wrong, but the fear of being alone in their experience that athletes fear most.
Mardy Fish, who suffered from an anxiety attack during the US Open three years ago, recently decided to break his silence about the issue.
In a piece titled “The Weight,” published in The Players’ Tribune, Fish described his battle with anxiety. Throughout the height of his career, Fish was faced with a persistent feeling of never being quite good enough, despite his many victories.
After a while, the condition got so terrible that he could not stand to be alone. The thought of upcoming matches would cause him to panic.
Finally, the pressure got to be unbearable. Before the third round in his US Open match with Roger Federer, Fish suffered an anxiety attack, preventing him from completing the game.
After three years of fighting with anxiety, Fish returned to the US Open this year, not only to renew his career, but to shed light on the reality many athletes face. “To show weakness, we’re told, in so many words, is to deserve shame. But I am here to show weakness. And I am not ashamed.”
In returning to the US Open, Fish has faced his performance anxiety with courage, encouraging other athletes to do the same. If you are suffering from sports anxiety, here are a few tips that may help you overcome the issue.
(1) Be honest about what you are facing. Do not let the fear of admitting your struggle with performance anxiety to negatively impact your game.
(2) Understand that pressure is self-induced. The anxiety you feel is a perception of threat to your self. Embrace the challenge of performing under pressure.
(3) Seek to understand your source of fear. Most of the time, fear of failure is about how you think others will react to you when you fail to reach their expectations.
One of the best ways to overcome performance anxiety is to enlist the help of a mental coach. Many athletes seek the help of private coaches, strength coaches and nutritionists to add performance. Mental coaches can help you manage your performance anxiety and fear of failure for games and competitions.