We all have different things that can create nervousness and fear. As for nervousness, it is a good state to be in. It’s the body’s way of preparing for performance. It’s when nervousness turns into fear that we need to do something about it, so it doesn’t negatively affect our game and well-being.
From a mental training perspective, there is a clear pedagogy on how to learn to manage your fears, and here are 5 tips to get you started.
Fear is our strongest emotion. It exists to help us survive and protect us from dangers. When we signal fear to the brain, it immediately sends out signals to the body to protect you. Your stress system kicks in and starts producing stress hormones to help you flee, fight, or play dead, and your tension level rises. But the brain can’t discern whether your fear is real or imaginary. Out-of-bounds, for example, pose no real danger, but if you become afraid of them, you will still activate your defense, your stress system. The first step in managing your fear is to learn to regulate this stress system and, therefore, your tension level. Do this: Notice when your body starts reacting to fear. Common signs are:
When you experience these signals, it’s time to activate your calming system, the vaccine against stress:
This helps both your body and mind calm down, allowing you to return to the present moment.
Having a clear routine and always performing it at the same pace is crucial. It provides you with calmness, builds confidence, and a sense of security. Practice your routine at the range and do the same when you play, regardless of the outcome.
Use the walk between strokes to enhance your presence and create a positive state for the next stroke. Here are some suggestions:
Making your goal very appealing is important to let go of what you fear. If, for example, you are afraid of hitting the water or going out of bounds, direct all your attention to the green or a specific area on the fairway instead. Make the goal more attractive by visualizing your favorite flowers placed at the target, or perhaps there’s a bottle of champagne waiting for you. Or imagine your children waving at the target and saying, “You should hit here!” This engages your curiosity, which is the opposite of fear!
The more fears you have, the more important it is to prepare. Go through what you are afraid of and write it down in detail. Note how you feel when thinking about your fear (tension, anxiety, etc.). Then follow the advice above and finish by sitting down, closing your eyes, and going through your drive, approach shot, or putt. See yourself following your routine and hitting the ball exactly where you want it, over and over again!
Bonus tip: Add a color to your goal
The brain likes it when something is happening. Therefore, add a color to your goal, making it easier for the brain to focus on it. Colors also relate to your right brain hemisphere, which is very beneficial for golfers. Here, you find the whole picture, creativity, and rhythm, which helps you swing better.
Good luck, and remember that practice makes perfect!
/ Jenny Hagman
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