You practice your sport to make sure that your body is in top form and your skills are the best they can be.
Did you know that you should also practice relaxation? It’s easy to get overstimulated, overstressed, and overwhelmed, and those feelings can affect your performance. Relaxation is the solution.
But it’s not a question of sitting back on the couch with a beer and something mindless on TV. Recent research actually suggests that vegging out in front of the TV can lead to feelings of failure rather than feelings of serenity.
Instead, try Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Give yourself 20 minutes in a setting where you can concentrate fully without interruptions. Tense your toes, feeling your muscles work to bring all your energy into those toes. Then relax your toes completely. Make them feel like jelly, or notice the tension draining away like water.
Tense your feet and then relax them. Move on to your ankles, your calves, and on up your body to your scalp.
If there are mental images that help you tense and then fully relax, use them. Breathe in the scent of a flower or imagine lifting and then dropping all the efforts and concerns of the day. Tense with the thought of getting ready to make that jump and relax with the thought of getting the ball through the net.
Try out different mental images until you find the ones that are most effective for you. Connect the physical habit with positive thoughts. When you do this, you’ll find that beginning the physical movements, tensing and relaxing each muscle group, will automatically bring up the positive thoughts.
If you make this effort daily — practice it — you’ll find that you reach the relaxation response more quickly and easily over time. As it becomes more natural and more effective, consider working this practice into your pre-game ritual. The additional control and calm the routine will create will make a difference in your focus and your performance.