It can be a difficult time of year for some with exam pressure adding to that of comps (and life in general), or you may just be having a difficult time. The mental health charity Mind has research which currently suggests that at least 1 in 3 people will experience some form of stress, anxiety or depression in their lifetime...so it's nothing to be ashamed of. Its incredibly common.
At Superstars we aim to support our athletes through any such challenges and have a couple techniques we recommend...
A friend of ours does this and sings it's praises. She writes 3-5 pages in an A6 notebook every morning first thing. Just free flowing whatever is in her mind (she says it usually starts along the line of 'urgh, its early, it's cold. Why am I awake. Meh.' that kind of stuff). Apparently by the end of page 5 something cathartic has almost always happened. Then the key is - you never read it back. Just put it back in the bedside drawer and get on with your day.
Verbalising the Feeling
If you feel strong emotions coming on but are able to identify a root feeling (like frustration, pain etc) to just say that out loud. 'I'm really frustrated.' And then either work through that feeling as to why OR just take the approach of 'I'm really frustrated - but I'm not gonna let it get in my way' and just keep training/working.
Know your Triggers
Most people with anxiety have a couple things that trigger more severe reactions. It can be incredibly helpful to identify what can cause physical reactions for you. Some people react more when they are hot, or more tired or have had a tougher day in general. Some may respond negatively to certain phrases or perceived suggestions from others (e.g. suggestions of 'not being good enough' or 'being slower at something than other people'). Once you know your triggers you can talk with your coaches / team mates about these to ensure everyone helps manage and avoid them. This also feeds into you knowing if you needs a break in order to cool down or shake something off before it takes hold of you.
Managing the Tears
If you know you can be tearful for no reason - this one's for you. Talk to your team mates about this and help them understand what you needs in those moments. E.g. If you see me get like that please hug me (or leave me alone) or whatever works. Also you can decide if you needs a minute alone to let it pass or if you want to train through the tears and either will be fine with us.
If you find yourself in the middle of an emotional reaction that you don't feel in control of there is the 5 to 1 technique of ReCentering yourself to bring you back into the room and in control of your own mind/body.
Find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This will bring you back into focus and help you feel less at the mercy of your anxiety/stress.
Confuse your Brain
Sometimes the emotional/physical response of anxiety or stress can be over-ridden by confusing your brain in a particular way. When you feel a response that you don't want coming on try to count backwards from 100 in 3's...97, 94 etc. This interrupts the fight or flight response and can help you remain present in the moment to deal with your feelings in whatever way you choose.
Snap Out of It
If you suffer from regular panic attacks or similar try wearing a hair tie or elastic band around your wrist. When you feel a stress or anxiety response coming on - SNAP IT. This can re-focus your mind and interrupt the response.
Give Yourself a Break
One of the most rubbish things about feeling awful - is that you feel awful about feeling awful. You can get into a cycle of giving yourself an incredibly hard time about feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or just bad. It can be hard - but try to allow yourself to feel your feelings without guilt. As we said above - some many people have either been through exactly what you're feeling or will do in the future. If you give yourself permission to feel your feelings without an evil voice in your head giving you a hard time about them - you'll get to a better place more quickly.
Positive Self Talk
That evil voice in your head can be your worst enemy. It knows your deepest concerns, pains and triggers. If you let it - it can drag you down. When you sense that voice waking up or hear it starting to give you a hard time - try to tell it to get back in it's cellar/box (whatever works for you) and that you won't be listening to it right now. Instead try to cultivate your own personal cheerleader who only tells you positive things in your head. This voice recognises reality and it's complexities but likes to focus on your best qualities then remind and praise you for them. So for example after a rep of a stunt that didn't hit - this voice may comment on how far you've come, how close it was to hitting, how well you applied a correction from earlier - rather than telling you how you suck because you didn't hit the skill.
Lean on your Team Mates
The more open and honest you can be with those around you about how you're feeling and what you need - the more help those people can be. If you know you just need space, or hugs, or positive encouragement, or a smile then these people can give you those things. They will feel better in being able to support you and you will feel better knowing you have their support.
Figure out what you need and ASK FOR IT
Following from above - there is nothing wrong or self-indulgent about figuring out what you need and asking for it. Its far better than expecting people to read your mind. Disney and rom coms have taught us that our best friends or romantic partners should be able to read our minds especially at the best or worst of times. This is a lie. Once you accept that this is a lie and learn to ask for what you need - your relationships will improve. Yes - sometimes there are magical moments when this does happen - but it's wrong to expect it.
Take Light Exercise
If you feel up to taking a short walk or any other form of light exercise when you are feeling bad - this is proven to help. Your body releases endorphins and these will improve your mood. Try not to overdo it or push yourself too hard - just anything that creates some light breathlessness and hopefully provides a change or scenery.
Try to Eat Healthy
There is a lot of research which suggests a fruit and vegetable rich diet can support recovery from or management of mood disorders. It can be really difficult if all you find yourself wanting is junk food. But if you feel able to - try to include some healthy snacking / meals when you feel able to.
Seek Professional Support
Whether your GP, local counseling service, or a sports psychologist, professionals have training and experience in how to help you through what you're dealing with. Reaching out can be tough for some at first - but you'll be thankful that you did.
Do whatever you can - and let that be enough
All the above are suggestions of techniques that may help you...but don't worry (see give yourself a break) if you aren't up to or able to put any of these into practice just yet. You're doing the best you can. And when you feel able to - you'll do a bit more. These techniques will always be available to you.