Stress is like spice. In the right proportion it enhances the flavor of a dish. Too little produces a bland, dull meal; too much may choke you.” -Donald Tubesing
A little bit of stress goes a long way to helping athletes maintain a competitive edge. A small amount of adrenaline and stress under pressure can actually improve athletic performance. But too much stress is not a good thing; instead of offering a performance advantage, high stress will hinder a figure skater from reaching their potential.
Here’s a crazy fact about stress: your body can’t tell the difference between sports related stress and lifestyle stress. In other words, your body doesn’t register a physiological difference between being stressed about an upcoming competition, being stressed about that test coming up in school, or being stressed that you’re going to be late to your lesson even though you left on time. Stress is stress. If you have a lot of it, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.
But wait – you might say – stress is part of life! I can’t get rid of it! And right you are! So the question becomes: how do you manage it?
Here are 3 ways to help successfully manage stress:
- Prioritize Sleep: If you’re body isn’t well rested, you will be more susceptible to the unfortunate side effects of stress. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep and that your sleep is of good quality. Waking up several times in the night, taking a long time to drift off into sleep and waking up feeling tired are all signs that your body isn’t sufficiently resting. To ensure that you’re prioritizing sleep make sure you give yourself enough time to sleep – set a bed-time and standard wake-up schedule – and remove distractions and screens at least 30 minutes before lights out.
- Tap into your support network: Life happens. Sometimes we are forced to deal with external stressors outside of our control. An easy way to help ground yourself is to connect with your support network. Hang out with friends, talk with your parents or siblings about what’s bothering you, check-in with your coaches: sometimes all we need is to lean on someone who has our best interests at heart and can provide support during difficult times. Don’t underestimate how much stress you can avoid by just tapping into the network you already have in place. For more information, check out our blog post about it HERE.
- Give yourself a break: This advice is two-fold. The first thing you can do is schedule activities completely unrelated to your sport that are fun for you. It’ll give your body and your brain a break from the pressure of competition or of not landing that one jump. If you’re a fly-fishing kind of gal –get thee to a lake! If you prefer watching the newest movie with your friends or playing a pick-up game of beach volleyball – go do that! The other way you need to give yourself a break is in training. It is a simple fact that if you are training at 100% every time you train, you are training wrong. Your body will run out of gas before your event and you put yourself at greater risk of developing an injury from overuse or incorrect movement. Your training should be periodized, ramping up to a peak and then tapering the week or two before your event. You should have a balance of on ice and off ice training and cross training. You can’t do the same thing day in and day out. It will physically put stress on your body and can possibly lead to mental stress down the line.
Do you have any techniques that work for you? Comment and let us know!