Heart pounding, pre-performance jitters, nerves before entering the competition floor.
We've all been there. I used to get pissed off when someone told me not to be nervous because it's actually okay to be! Just as long as you know how to master it. In fact, studies done on elite athletes (Hanin's Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning) have shown the correlation between levels of anxiety and performance. And believe it or not, being calm is not always better.
If you don't feel nervous before a performance, that usually means you don't care enough about what you are about to do. Feelings of anxiety isn't fun, but it's okay. It just means the thing you are about to do means a lot to you and you have to accept all the feelings (good or bad) that comes with it. Acknowledging these feelings actually helps you in managing them.
Luckily, I've learned a few techniques along the way to help me ease the feelings a little bit. Mind you, these are not the long preparations you need before a competition. You still need to do those. These are the quick fixes you can make during those few dreadful hours waiting to enter the competition floor. They've worked on me and helped me on competition day. Try them and who knows, they might help you too:
1.) Quick Core Strengthening
Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, your legs hip width apart and parallel to the floor. Ask someone (preferably your dance partner) to push both your legs outwards, opening up your legs. Resist the push and try to keep your legs closed. Try to be mindful of not using too much of your quadriceps and take your strength from your core. Squeeze your gluteus and pelvic floor muscles. Maintain a straight posture, navel to spine.
2.) Muscle Conditioning
There are times when I feel like I've lost maximum control over my muscles due to anxiety. During those times, I do a simple muscle conditioning exercise. You can do this in any position - standing up or sitting down - but lying down flat on the floor is best. After you've achieved a relaxed position, be mindful of the different parts of your body and try to squeeze each part for about 5 seconds and release. Do this 2-3 times. Do this to your calves, legs, gluteus, abs, all the way up to your head. Yes, even your face.
And lastly, the most common way to relax, doing deep inhalation and exhalation exercises. I follow a technique called the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Inhale deeply through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds expanding your chest and abdomen, and then exhale through your mouth and release for 8 seconds. You will feel that you are slowly starting to relax. Repeat as needed.
Do you have your own exercises or rituals that you follow before competing? Share them on the comments below. I'd love to hear them!