6 tips to help with ring nerves.

anxiety & fear ring nerves Mar 21, 2023

Everyone feels at least something before they walk into the ring. Ring nerves are a continuum from chill and relaxed to absolute panic. And sometimes, we misread our excitement for performance anxiety which can trip us up and create nerves that weren't initially there.

Basically, ring nerves and their sources are complicated.

If you need some quick actions to take to reduce your performance anxiety before a run, I got you.

Remember past successes. We tend to focus on the negative, fretting that what went wrong in the past will happen again. Unfortunately, focusing on the negative tears down our confidence and focuses our brain on the things we do NOT want. Instead, recall some favorite runs - or pieces and parts - and work towards feeling and running like that. If you have trouble remembering, check your phone's camera roll for inspiration and lean into the good runs.

Create a pre-run ritual. If you've been around me for any time, you know I am passionate about what I call "rituals." Develop a set of actions you take every trial morning - from the time you open your eyes until you walk into the ring. My list is long and includes making sure I acclimate myself and my dog to the space, potty time before we run, specific warm-up exercises, and repeating my mantra to my dog. It's a LOT longer than that, but my rituals ground my dogs and me in what we are doing, and it gives me a whole bunch of control in a day filled with variables.

Define success. How many trials have you shown up at without clearly defined goals other than Q? When we focus solely on the outcome, we do two main things. First, we take our focus off of all the things we need to do to perform. Things like connection, or cueing early, or body position. Second, we set up a scenario that the only way we can have a good day/weekend is if we Q, and that's not true. Instead create process goals that focus us on what we can control and what we need to do to put ourselves in a position to Q. Don't Q but get your weave entrance? Win! You'll have a more optimistic - and confident - outlook as a result and a LOT more fun!

Breathe! Taking control of your breathing signals to your anxiety that you are in control. And control is comforting. When fear and anxiety run the show, our breathing is shallower, our heartbeat faster, and our thinking clouded. The simple act of a few deep breaths sends powerful signals that tell our physical body we are safe, which allows us to think more clearly to do what we need to do to perform. Plus, it's a handy tool at the gate!

Practice gratitude. Oprah once said (and she may have been quoting someone else?), "If the only prayer you ever say is "Thank You," that is enough," and I just LOVE this thought. Too often, our thoughts and focus drift to what is wrong or needs to be fixed in our lives, forgetting what's right. Remembering to be grateful has a powerful impact on our anxiety and shifts our thoughts to a different location in our brains. Science. We build confidence from positive experiences, so let gratitude do it's magic and look at what you do have.

Have fun. Do you remember why you started competing with your dog? Was it for a 50-cent flat ribbon? Doubtful. My WHY is that I love dogs and love seeing what we can do together while continuing to push myself to be better. I can do all that and NQ simultaneously - both can be true. Dog sports should be fun! Our dogs should have a blast, and we should want to see them happy! You can be a serious competitor AND have fun - try it! :)

Need more anxiety-reducing tips? Try one of my self-paced classes, and tune into the podcast weekly!

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