It’s hard to avoid stress when you’re involved in the cheerleading, or any athletic, world. There are always so many things going on at once – practice, events, fundraising, driving, packing, and stretching… the list keeps on going! However, it’s crucial that you stay stress-free, particularly during competition season.
Whether you’re a coach or athlete, stress can really take a toll on your performance and prevent you from succeeding (and even surviving). Stress can even affect your overall mood and attitude. Many times, stress can make someone short-tempered, emotional, and easily upset. It can be harder to take a deep breath and move on. Stress can also make you feel more tired than usual, which will impact your daily tasks.
It’s not always possible to banish stress from your life. However, there are ways to reduce it and to prevent from affecting your performance.
Memorize Your Schedule.
Don’t just have a schedule; memorize it. Day planners and calendar apps can only help you so much. While they can remind you of upcoming events or due dates, it’s better if you already have the reminder saved in the back of your mind.
When we say memorize, we don’t mean reading your schedule over and over again like flashcards for a test. Instead, you should be frequently looking over your schedule. Every Sunday night, allow yourself at least half an hour to look over and study your schedule for the upcoming week. Make sure you have all tasks, events, and reminders listed and double check that nothing overlaps.
Know When to Stop.
Sometimes, as much as you hate to admit it, you need a break. While everyone wants to do well at competitions, you don’t want to push yourself or your team too hard. Be honest with yourself and your team and understand what you’re capable of and what needs work. By trying to force yourself to learn a new skill, you’re not only adding more stress to your life, but you’re also putting your safety at risk. Getting injured will only cause more stress (and distress!) when you realize you’ll be sitting on the bench for the rest of the season.
It sounds obvious, but once you start deep breathing, you’ll realize you were never really doing it in the first place. Taking steady, deep breaths doesn’t happen at random. You have to control it and concentrate on it in order for it to work. If you can, find a quiet spot or put on headphones and listen to a soothing song. Close your eyes and slowly breathe in through your nose. Fill your lungs with as much air as you can (you should actually feel your lungs expand!). Hold your breath for a moment before slowly releasing through your mouth. Try to slow down your breathing as much as possible. A common tactic is to slowly count to eight – four counts to breathe in, and four to breathe out.
Remind Yourself That Stuff Happens.
Whether or not you believe in fate or destiny, reminding yourself that “stuff happens” will relieve some of your stress. Things don’t always work out and sometimes things truly do happen for a reason. No one has a perfect season every season. There will be some bumps in the road. It’s how you handle those bumps that will affect your future. Don’t dwell on a stumble or a trip. Nobody’s perfect.
Focus on Yourself, Not the Competition.
Never let the threat of a rival team take away your excitement for performing. Focus your goals on having fun during your performance, not being perfect or beating someone else. By concentrating on your own personal goals (like performing better each time or jumping a little higher every competition), you’ll become a better cheerleader and you won’t be as focused on winning or losing. You will be much less stressed if your goal is to perform well, as opposed to winning.
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