You have trained long and hard for this event. Today’s the big day. Your moment of truth. Will it all come together as you have dreamed?

Or will those doubtful nagging thoughts begin to appear, slowly chipping away at your confidence. Your anxiety rises as the time for your event approaches. The anxiety is so overwhelming making it difficult to focus. Nothing you do brings relief. These are the moments when the biggest hurdle is fighting down the waves of anxiety.

When I first began racing with my crew club at regattas, the hours and minutes leading up to my heat were excruciating. The intense anticipation always caught me off guard. The nervous energy running through my body made sitting still impossible.

Performance anxiety is experienced differently by each athlete. Physiological, mindset and emotional symptoms combine.

Physiological Symptoms

  • upset stomach
  • butterflies
  • nausea
  • sweating palms
  • racing heart
  • dry mouth
  • shakiness

Mindset Symptoms

  • easily distracted
  • thoughts of fear, doubt and worry
  • Mind blanks, blocks, freezes

Emotional Symptoms

  • Fight, flight or freeze response
  • Irritable
  • Fear
  • Inadequacy

Now this is where most sports psychologists will explore the different fears, doubt and worries contributing to your anxiety. Yes, those are all good and plausible. When you are in the moment it is too difficult to decide what is throwing off your focus.

Simply put either you are competing to win or competing to not lose. When your focus turns to thoughts about not losing it’s like unlocking Pandora’s Box. Suddenly the nasty thoughts are unleashed. Each thought building on the previous one.

Instead of spinning out of control, you can contain the momentum to turn it around. The Emotional Freedom Techniques is the ideal tool for catching those nasty thoughts, regaining control of your body and putting a lid on the anxiety.

The anticipation of the first race of the day was when I experienced the most anxiety. To calm my nerves I began tapping on the different meridian points. I didn’t care what anyone thought as they saw me tapping away. Initially I was tapping without saying anything because I was already keenly aware of my anxiety.

As I felt my mind, and my body, begin to calm I began adding reminder phrases to the tapping.

This nervous energy

Worried about rowing well.

Will I be able to stay strong in the race

What if I miss a stroke and catch a crab

I don’t want to lose

Once I felt centered I tapped a round of positive statements.

I’ve trained well for today

I am prepared

I’m in a boat with strong experienced rowers

I’ve done this before, I know I have what it takes

Right before my first heat as I was walking toward the bathrooms, silently tapping along the way, I was stopped by a rower from another club. She asked me if I was doing EFT, stating she had never seen someone tap in the open before. We talked for a couple minutes, sharing our experience with EFT. Then it was time for the race.

Feeling focused and confident, I climbed into my seat of the boat. We did some warm-up drills first. We had to wait longer than anticipated for our heat. Silently I did more tapping to maintain my focus. Finally, we lined up to race. I took some deep breaths, quieted my mind and prepared for the start.

Performance anxiety is difficult to manage under the best of circumstances. Understanding it’s cause is helpful, but not necessary. All you need to determine is if you are racing to win, or racing to not lose.

As an athlete, your anxiety is usually related to the thoughts of not losing. Use EFT as your secret weapon to relieve the anxiety. Tap as you acknowledge your thoughts. Then reframe with positive thoughts to refocus your energy. The Emotional Freedom Techniques is a fast, easy technique to conquer the negative thoughts.

Challenge: Does anxiety interfere with your performance when competing? List the thoughts which go through your head adding to your tension. Next list the things you would like to say to yourself instead which would raise your confidence. Now you have your tapping statements. First tap on all the negative thoughts to reduce their intensity, then tap on all the positive ones to anchor them in. Or if you like just follow along with me on the video as I do some tapping for performance anxiety.