Stress Suc­cess

Seven ways to rise above and move be­yond the emo­tional pres­sures of com­pe­ti­tion

Figure Skater Fitness - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - by Adri­ana Ermter

Com­pe­ti­tion stress is a real thing. While the Yerkes-Dod­son Law sug­gests a cer­tain amount of stress can im­prove your per­for­mance, like when you’re feel­ing ex­cited right be­fore you skate onto the ice to do your pro­gram and the adrenalin rush helps you achieve your best, too much anx­i­ety can also have the op­po­site ef­fect. So know­ing how to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween nerves of an­tic­i­pa­tion and the un­ease of be­ing over­whelmed and then, how to move through these emo­tions will help you man­age the com­pet­i­tive sea­son like the pro you are.


One of the best ways to re­duce stress and anx­i­ety is to slow­down your breath­ing. “When you are stressed, over­whelmed, wor­ried or some­thing is both­er­ing you, your breath­ing tends to get fast and shal­low,” says Dr. Vi­nay Saranga M.D., a psy­chi­a­trist and founder of Saranga Com­pre­hen­sive Psy­chi­a­try. “This can ac­tu­ally makes you feel worse than you are al­ready feel­ing.”

AC­TION: Fo­cus on slow­ing down your breath­ing by in­hal­ing air in through your nose and deep into the di­aphragm (your stom­ach area), hold­ing the breath for a few sec­onds and slowly ex­hal­ing through the lips.


When you start wor­ry­ing about prepar­ing for your com­pe­ti­tion, prac­tic­ing your pro­gram or even talk­ing through the steps you need to take or who you’ll be com­pet­ing against at the event, stop, re­group your thoughts and re­mind your­self to prac­tice mind­ful­ness.

AC­TION: “This is the act of be­ing present in the mo­ment and in what you are do­ing in that mo­ment,” says Dr. Saranga. “Im­mers­ing your­self in the present mo­ment makes it harder to dwell on the past and worry about the fu­ture.” It puts your headspace ex­actly where it be­longs, in the present mo­ment, where you need to re­fo­cus your en­ergy.


There’s no doubt the com­pet­i­tive sea­son can take a toll on skaters’ emo­tions, even the ones with Olympic medals hang­ing around their necks. You’re hu­man; it’s nat­u­ral. So when you feel as though it’s all too much to bear, take a break.

AC­TION: Go for a walk. Take a drive and turn up the mu­sic. Put on your bathing suit and go for a swim. Watch YouTube videos about cats jump­ing when they en­counter a cu­cum­ber. Hang out at Star­bucks for a half hour and peo­ple watch. It doesn’t mat­ter what you do. “When you feel your anx­i­ety lev­els ris­ing, check out for a few min­utes by tak­ing a break from what you’re do­ing and con­nect to some­thing that makes you feel good,” af­firms Dr. Saranga.


There’s noth­ing like a heated de­bate over which ath­lete skates bet­ter than the next, what so-and-so’s pro­gram out­fit looks like or how the ath­letes are be­ing judged harder than you an­tic­i­pated. “If a topic feels too far out there or if you know that peo­ple have very dif­fer­ing points of views, stay away from it,” ad­vises Dr. Saranga.

AC­TION: Fo­cus con­ver­sa­tions around how you’ve watched Stranger Things so many times you can re­cite ev­ery episode, how you wish Brit­ney Spears would re­lease a new al­bum, why you can’t put down your copy of Scarboroug­h. Re­liv­ing mem­o­ries and other fun and in­ter­est­ing top­ics is al­ways bet­ter than gos­sip­ing about some­one else or get­ting into a spicy con­ver­sa­tion about who out-skated who.


It’s so easy to get stuck in­side your ho­tel room, the ice rink and the gym. Com­pe­ti­tions of­ten take you far away from home and out of your rou­tine, so it’s easy to not know what to do and wind up do­ing, well, noth­ing. “Get­ting some fresh air and a lit­tle ac­tiv­ity can be good for ev­ery­one,” says Dr. Saranga.

AC­TION: Think of games to play out­side. Go for a bike ride on a city rental bike or for a walk around the block. “A lit­tle fresh air can re­lieve a lot of stress and ten­sion.”


If you don’t like large crowds or small talk with the other ath­letes, rather than worry about it, be kind to your­self with the self-mes­sag­ing you choose to tell your­self about the sit­u­a­tion. “Re­mind your­self that it’s only a few hours and you can get through it,” ad­vises Dr. Saranga.

AC­TION: “Spend time around the peo­ple with whom you have the most in com­mon or the ones who don’t stress you out as much,” says Dr. Saranga. “Re­mem­ber to smile as this not only makes you ap­pear to be en­joy­ing your­self, it re­ally will help you feel bet­ter.”


Many ath­letes ex­pe­ri­ence men­tal health strain and are sup­ported by med­i­ca­tion. There’s no shame in that. “The [com­pe­ti­tion] sea­son is not the time to come off your med­i­ca­tion, but in­stead to make sure you’re dili­gent about tak­ing it,” Dr. Saranga.

AC­TION: Fol­low the plan your doc­tor has set out for you. Go to bed at the same time each night and aim to get at least seven hours of sleep. Eat well and know, you’re do­ing what’s best for your mind and your body.


Our cover model Gabrielle Dale­man takes a break from com­pe­ti­tion stress by cre­at­ing a lit­tle me-time and lis­ten­ing to her favourite playlist.

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