Mental toughness should be practiced everyday, especially for those athletes wanting to take their sport to the next level. If that sounds like you, here are five weekly habits that will improve your mental toughness to help you achieve peak performance.
1. Practice relinquishing control. Every athlete, coach and parent worries. It’s natural and just part of being human. Most of the time our worries are a direct result of the fact that we know we can not control everything. Take notice when something frustrates you, and ask yourself if it is something you can control. If you can’t, work on letting go. This will help to ease some of the discomforts you experience from things that lead to your stress and anxiety.
2. Be intentional. Check in with yourself throughout the day. When you notice something not going right in practice, take a step back, and take a breath, review the situation and be conscious of what is going on. Work on being intentional about your actions in practice and your actions during games will feel much more automatic, relaxed, and precise.
3. Challenge negative thoughts. Notice when you are using words like “I can’t” or telling yourself “I’m stupid” or “I messed that up so bad.” Challenge every negative thought. When you say “I can’t” take a step back and say “am I really unable? Is it impossible? Or have I just not learned this yet? Do I need a new approach?” By challenging your thoughts you will begin to change your beliefs and behaviors, and ultimately your actions.
4. Train your brain to stop fearing. Fear is what paralyzes you in an important game, match, when taking a penalty shot, etc. For most of us, when the fear kicks in we turn into jello. So training your brain to see there’s no threat will help you switch off the fear response. The more you practice thought stoppage and challenging negative thoughts, the more your brain adapts and it becomes easier to switch off the fear response.
5. Stop ruminating on the past. We’ve all made mistakes, and we’ve all experienced failure, but if you’re still obsessing over a bad move, decision or play you’re choosing the wrong mental path. One of the keys to success is to accept that failures and setbacks are part of the learning process. Learn from it and move on. This is what mentally tough athletes do, and now you can too.