An important step in many mental performance exercises is something very simple. So simple that we do it all the time without even noticing, and at times it can fly under the radar. Because of this, it is in my opinion that:
the BREATH is FAR TOO UNDERRATED.
Breathing is hands down one of the most important things anyone can do. I mean, it is one of the things that is needed to stay alive after all. So, tell me it’s not important, because you will lose in that argument. Not only do you need it to live, but it is a focus point during workouts, yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. It is also a big factor in mental performance techniques and one that we here at Sterling Sport Mindset go over in our Pregame to Podium team talks. For example, when you have a routine, you do your three steps and then what do you pair it with??
When you are working on only focusing on the things you can control, what’s one thing you can control?
What is one thing that is used to help reduce anxiety, stress, and calm your nerves?
You probably know the answer by now but I’ll say for the ones in the back…
Now don’t start feeling bad for not giving the breath all the credit it deserves. It wasn’t until I joined SSM that the importance of breathing was even brought to my attention. It wasn’t until I attended my first team talk as an intern that I had even heard about belly breathing. Then, when I start practicing mindfulness I learned how to properly breath from my diaphragm instead of my chest. Ever since, breathing has helped me tremendously and is my biggest go-to in high pressure situations.
Since breathing is something we do without even having to think about, it’s easy to see why it’s something we can forget to do at times when it is needed most. Adding breathing exercises into your daily routine can be a beneficial habit to have. Another trick is to have a key word that you and a friend could say to each other as a reminder to take a step back from a situation and breathe. A friend and I like to use the word snowball. Sounds kind of funny, but to me it makes sense. To avoid the snowball effect of things escalating to quickly, the word snowball helps remind us to pause for a second and just take a deep breath.
So, use key word snowball or any word of your choosing to remind yourself and others when it’s time to take a nice deep breath. Work those breathing exercises into your daily life, and maybe even think twice before hitting the dismiss button when your watch tells you it’s time to breathe (Apple Watch owners will understand this reference).