Take a breathe right now.

If you have watched any mental training videos, you will know that calming down can often be related to peak performance (and being too amped related to lowered performance. Performance on difficult tasks, like most of those in sports, actually get worse the more energetic you get. Look at the image below.

Source: Wikipedia

Everyone can picture the player who is so energetic that they cannot do what their calmer teammate does. This player might be really good at what is simple, but sometimes your sport demands skillful and difficult things. If this player is you, read these 5 simple tips to be the calm athlete who can do difficult things.


Sleep is a key factor in your ability for emotional regulation. The more consistent, the better. The more erratic, the more difficult it can become to control emotions like nervousness. If you are a serious athlete, consider this the most direct message to you: take care of your sleep. There are so many things you can do to improve your sleep, but here are the easiest:

  • Get the sun in your eyes right after you wake up
  • No light from screens (or use night mode) in the evenings
  • Stretch, foam roll, or do anything else to slow your body down before bed

Breath work is the quickest solution to calming your body down you can use in the moment at your game, practice, or tryout. There are two useful breath work patterns.

  1. 4-7-8: each part of the breath is measured in seconds. 4 seconds in, 7 seconds hold, 8 second exhale.
  2. controlled pause: breathe normally for a time, then hold your breath following an exhale. Hold your breath only until you have a small urge to breathe in again.

This is not medical advice, but you should not hold your breath for too long or during your intense competition without first becoming familiar with how your body works.  The useful advice is to work on these things slowly. Practice these alone at home to see how they make you feel and so that they are easy to replicate in moments where you want to calm your body.


Visual awareness is a powerful tool to disrupt the thoughts that normally make you anxious. If you are caught up in nervous thoughts, take a look around. It can help you get out of your head. There is enough going on without your anxious thoughts. It will become more automatic for you to focus on what you’re doing if you start noticing where you are. Perhaps there is some familiar cue you can notice every time you go play your sport: the color of the grass, the image of other players warming up, how your uniform looks, or anything else. The key is to start noticing where you are.


Being more prepared, in general, will make it more likely that you succeed. If you are scared of failing, that is a good start… but it won’t cure your fear. It’s okay to feel this way, but sometimes you will just have to accept the feeling of losing even when you are prepared. Preparation doesn’t eliminate nervousness, but usually it makes your pre-game feeling better.

If you are truly well-prepared and are nervous, module 4 of Your Performance Code Explained can help you address and navigate this negative emotion. In fact, much of your preparation is mental. Whether you are someone who spends all day or 20 minutes preparing for your sport, there is something you can do to get in the best mindset for you.


There are two cool perspective taking tricks you can use to calm yourself down.

  1. Imagine that everyone else is nervous too. Think about why they are nervous? Then notice what you realize…
  2. Fear having everything go right, then realize how ridiculous your fears are. If you tell yourself you are scared of playing well, winning, being healthy, and having fun you can make the emotions behind your nervousness seem small.

These are just tricks, but they are things you can try when all else fails and you need a quick solution. Over time, the emotions and thoughts that come from these tricks can become built into your mindset. Notice these and see if it helps flip your perspective.


You might be nervous because you are anticipating something bad happening. That is okay, in fact it is natural. But the best way to confront your nervousness is not to obsess about these tips of how to calm down. It is to calm down enough to be present in your sports environment so that you can learn the truth: nothing will happen to you out there that you cannot recover from. The things you are scared of can be prevented and reversed if you need. The wins and losses will feel less strong when you look back on them. Let yourself calm down so you can remember more wins and successful moments.