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Preparing & Performing Under Pressure

Preparing & Performing Under Pressure

5 mental tools to help you along the way:


1. Visualization - One of the most effective ways for you to prepare for an event is to realize and activate your imagination. The more you develop and practice visualization, the more effective and impactful it will be during competition. Remember visualization or imagery is the ability to picture yourself performing at your best. Practice visualizing the steps you will be going through before and during the competition. Use all your 5 senses when you practice visualization. The clearer the image - the more detailed- the greater the effect on the body.


2. Confidence - Remember your ability. Remember your preparation. Reflect on past successes and positive experiences. The two primary ways to gain confidence is to remember the quality and quantity of your training. How you’ve prepared? What you’ve done? The greatest obstacle on the road to confidence is fear. Fears come from uncertainty and the uncertainty indicates a lack of confidence. No one can make us feel as if we’re failures without our own consent. Confident people never consent.


Tale of Two Wolves:

An old Cherokee chief teaches his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego. The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”


3. View this event as a challenge not a threat. When you view this as a challenge it starts with a perception of the situation as an opportunity to push yourself, get out of your comfort zone, seek out your limits, achieve your goals, and reach a new level of excellence. With this perception, you are focused on pursuing your athletic goals with complete confidence, courage and commitment and without doubt, worry or fear. Challenge associated with you embracing the process of your sport rather than fearing the results of your efforts. You will feel energized and your muscles will feel loose and your breathing will be deep and controlled. Remember your fundamental goal is to face and conquer the challenge.


4. Breath control- “Your breathing determines whether you are at your best or whether you are at a disadvantage.” Carola, author and teacher of breathing practices.

Box breathing is one simple technique to practice breath control. Drawing a box with your finger: Breath for five seconds, hold for five seconds, breathe out for five seconds, and then hold for five seconds and repeat

You can also breathe in through the nose for a count of five hold for two to three seconds and then breathe out for a count of five and repeat.

Make sure when you’re breathing that your belly expands during inhalation and relaxes during exhalation. Proper breathing helps relieve the stress and tension from your system and brings you back into the present moment.


5. Neutral thinking. Work on decreasing negative talk and focus on neutral talk. Be aware of the chatter in your head and modify it as needed.

Remember when you downshift to neutral, you are choosing your next right step for you. You accept the past, but you also accept that it's not predictive of the future. Remember your behavior will supersede your emotions when acting in alignment with your values and practicing neutral thinking in emotional situations.

Do your best to focus on the present moment, what is in your control, and not allow negative thinking to be a part of your conversation within yourself or with others. Focus on the facts, move forward, and take action steps with things within your control.

Finally, As you go into this next competition, have a mantra, phrase, or a word that will continue to encourage and inspire you in the present moment while you’re competing. Repeat this mantra throughout your competition.


Remember….enjoy the process and have fun!


Dr. Nina Rios-Doria is a Licensed Counselor and specializes in mental performance and mental health for athletes. Learn more about Dr. Nina and her practice at



  • The Champions Mind by Jim Afremow

  • Getting to Neutral by Trevor Moawad

  • The Mental Game of Baseball by H.A. Dorfman

  • Train your Mind for Athletic Success by Jim Taylor

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