IF/ THEN ==> Anxiety

First competitions are coming up for the new archers. While I have been competing for decades and absolutely love the buzz …some newbies and some veterans alike are not so inclined.

One specific feeling word that pops up is anxiety. This is a real medical problem for some people when it leads to panic attacks, hyperventilation, and fainting (yes I have been first responder on archery fields with such incidents so be prepared).

An athlete started speaking about how her anxiety feels (butterflies turning into tummy aches, inability to concentrate, wanting to hide in a corner). I asked point blankly if she wanted to do the competition. She looked at me and said yes. I shook her hand and said OK – we are going to find a solution. Instantly there was a change…she wanted to find a solution and she trusted me to help.

We started talking about why going to the competition was important for her – what does she value? As she revealed all of her why’s…I explained that all those scared sensations were just her body’s way of saying that the competition matters to her. The feelings were not of fear but rather of excitement in doing something that is important for her. I said that she was actually a very lucky person to be doing something in her life that makes her feel so alive! This reframing was a very important step. No one had ever explained it like this before. Something clicked. She now had a new way of viewing what was happening inside – not as something to be denied or hidden – but rather accepted and to be viewed as a passionate energy to fuel her desire.

We looked at other life situations where the same feelings had previously occurred and when the next situation might happen.  She had a school test coming up so I said we can do a trial run starting with the 3 questions:

==> did she prepare the best she could?

==> did she want to get her diploma?

==> how would she feel if she did not try?

We agreed that if at any moment there were butterflies taking flight…she would reframe and say the feelings were energy arrows reminding her how much she wants her diploma. At the same time she would add some belly breathing throughout the test and would remember to sit tall in her chair because she was proud of herself for being there.

At no time did I tell her to just relax and not think about her feelings. Instead there was acceptance, reframing, acknowledged confidence based on preparation, refocusing on desired result, state change via breathing and correct posture, and the knowing that whatever the result would be – it would be better than not trying at all.

At the next archery session she reported back and said that she did OK on her test but more importantly she felt great taking the test. She really did not need to tell me since it was clear in her body language that a major life change had occurred.

As she smiled and played with her arrows, she looked up and challenged me to a Game of X’s … and said she would show me how she did the steps:

Out loud, she stated that she was training hard, she loved what she was doing and that not trying was no longer an option.

After a few arrows were shot, I could see her mind working… she repositioned her stance, took belly breaths, refocused on the movement and smiled. She was enjoying it as much as I was.

If anxious feelings arise then accept, reframe, acknowledge, refocus, reposition and try.

Serious anxiety requires medical attention. Learning how to reframe feelings requires practice. Use the steps and try it in closed practice sessions. Rehearse for competitions using timers and scorecards. Allow you mind to learn how to perform with your feelings. Every arrow counts so just start with one and see how it goes from there.