Athlete Anxiety and the Need to Control Outcomes
All athletes have one common goal: to win. However, sometimes that competitive spirit is more than just a mindset. The need to control outcomes and every detail could be a symptom of a mental health issue, specifically anxiety.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it because anxiety is a fear of the unknown. While anxiety can be an everyday mindset for some, for others it comes in waves and seemingly out of nowhere. When it feels like the ground underneath you is unstable—physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually, for example—it’s normal to feel scared.
Anxiety is more common than you might think, even among athletes. One reason is that it can be an ongoing issue that is derived from any number of life experiences, hormones, or even genetics. There’s even evidence to suggest that anxiety can derive from gut health and nutrition. For these individuals, the need to control an outcome by obsessing over details can be one way to find relief. That’s because the individual feels like they are doing whatever they can to prevent a disaster from happening. Some people who suffer from anxiety will do lots of things to avoid having their foundation shook, which in turn helps them feel in control and far less anxious.
How to stop worrying about controlling the outcome
I’ve noticed in my own experiences that when I worry too much about the future, I overcompensate in my actions, but more critically in my mindset. My thoughts are consumed by trying to solve a problem that hasn’t even occurred yet. It’s a habit I’ve been working to break. Here are some techniques that have worked for me.
- First and foremost, learn to recognize a negative thought habit when it occurs. If you find yourself going down a rabbit hole of spinning thoughts over what might or might not happen—and how you can keep it from happening and fix it if it happens anyway—gently remind yourself that all you have is this moment. Relax.
- Your name is not “God,” “Universe,” or whatever higher entity you believe in. If you don’t believe in a higher entity, then your name is not “ego.” What I mean by this is that whatever is going to be is going to be and the majority of it is out of your control. Energy—physical or metaphysical—is all around us at all times. There’s no way for you to control every bit of energy that exists. What you have control over is your mindset and your actions so slow down, relax, and choose wisely by simply doing your best.
- There’s a quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer that I love. “When the choice is to be right or to be kind, always make the choice that brings peace.” This has a double meaning to me. The obvious first meaning is in choices in dealing with others. The second meaning is a little deeper. I apply this quote to my self-talk. The need to control often stems from wanting to be right, which is a need of your ego. So then, I ask myself, is what I’m thinking about myself, or about someone else, coming from a place of being right or kind? Whether thoughts or actions, this principle can be a really great indicator of where you’re at in your peace of mind.
- Worrying is spending energy on things you have no proof of. When you worry, ask yourself, “where’s the proof?” There won’t be any because no one has proof of something that hasn’t occurred yet.
- Let other people be. You can’t control other people plain and simple. You can’t change them and you can’t make them take certain actions.
- Reframe the negative thought habit, “if only I…” Again, all you have is this moment. The past is the past and the future has yet to be determined. I’m sure you’re doing your best, and that’s enough.
- “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. ” — John Lennon. My mom loves to remind me of this quote and I have to admit that it’s helped me on more than one occasion. It helps me to relax and stop making myself worry about every single detail of what could happen.
- Focus on being happy right now. Be grateful for what you do have and what you have achieved. It may seem easier said than done when you’re in a place of anxiousness and stress, but even when you don’t feel like feeling good, you’re the only one who can pull yourself out of your funk so give yourself permission to be happy and enjoy life. Even just for a few moments at a time, that’s a win. All the moments add up to longer-lasting peace and happiness.
There are lots of ways to help yourself and quite often I find that people need to find the thought/action that works best for them. It’s like tweaking your favorite recipe until you get it just right for your taste buds and body. With that said, I hope that this will inspire you to find ways to help you release control and find ways to transform anxiety into peace.
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