It’s not okay to be afraid.

At least, that’s what we’re taught. By parents, and teachers, and coaches … all working to make us better, tougher, more resilient.

Yet adulthood can be even scarier than those monsters under the bed or taking that first “leap” in your sport of choice. Heck, 2020 has taught us to fear toilet paper shortages – who knew?!

So yeah, everyone has fear/anxiety/stress (so many different labels!) And my opinion is that your fear/anxiety/stress will absolutely find an outlet if not provide one. You may get headaches or some other new physical ailment. You may get angrier quicker or cry at the drop of the hat. You may retreat, shrinking your world one fear at a time.

In our dog sport world, it seems acceptable to say that we have “ring nerves” or even that we “choke” in big moments. We use these labels because we’ve been conditioned not to admit we are afraid to fail.

Last weekend I entered two rally trials held in one day. They held the trials back-to-back so both Masters classes we first, followed by both Excellent classes, etc. It had been at least a year-and-a-half since I’d walked into any Rally ring and before going into Masters I was NERVOUS! I felt it in my body, in my breath, in my thoughts and I knew I was sending it to my dog like soundwaves only she could hear.

Thankfully I caught myself. I recognized what was happening and I reached for my tools. I identified the root of my fear so as to loosen its grip. I breathed. I took myself out for some fresh air. I reminded myself that I had the power to shift from nervous to excited. I looked into Mox’s eyes and told her what I was feeling but that I was excited to be trialing again. And through that truth, I was able to get my mind back in the game and reconnect with my process goals.

Our first run was “meh,” but once behind us, we both leveled out and went 6/6. Fatigue set in for runs 5 & 6 and neither of us has the mental stamina we had “pre-Vid.” But we’ll get there.

I was grateful for the ability to reset quickly and to remind myself not just of my goals but also that I was happy to just be trialing again!