The upward climb just kept going on and on beneath my feet, sometimes more steep and sometimes less, higher and higher. I did it…I made it all the way to the plateau at the top of the mountain. A look at my sport watch reveals that I did it even faster than I thought I would. I’m going to do this section again, and with only a thought I was again at the place where the path begins. Again I see the path in front of me sometimes – the roots of trees crisscrossing the forest floor – and simultaneously I fly like an eagle over the path. I can see myself running from high above, and I even become a kind of spectator as my body below covers the last few meters of the climb.
If you think this sounds a bit like a confused dream, you’re not far off. I’m laying in bed with my eyes closed, listening to the air that flows in and out through my nostrils. There’s more to it though: I’m working through an important part of my training for the upcoming ultramarathon. There are only a few days to go. The part of the route that I just described is the most technical and difficult stretches of the run. One comes up against this challenge about halfway through the run, and it’s something that causes me more that a little concern. I’m not dreaming about this part of the run, instead I’m practicing a method of systematic desensitization – a slow process for dealing with things that bring up feelings of fear. In steps and stages, I have already overcome this part of the trail many times in my mind. I have taken on this seemingly overwhelming challenge before actually running along this difficult path.
By reducing my level of fear with this exercise, I came much closer to succeeding even before the run actually started. Here are some other things that I found to be very helpful.
Anyone might be surprised by the feelings of panic that can come to the surface in the last days before a competition, a test or an important appointment. Too little training, not enough studying, not preparing sufficiently for the topic of the meeting – there are enough things that might be cause for stress. Don’t let yourself get taken by surprise by such waves of fear…just trust in your preparation. Consider that you have done what you could do. That’s all there is too it, and excessive preparation can even be overkill. If you’ve actually done too little in advance, you will clearly not improve the situation by panicking. It’s better to learn from this and be better prepared next time. Moreover, don’t let yourself be distracted by feelings of guilt. You can’t change anything about it now anyway.
As described above, you can do something about many of the fears you have in advance. Analyze your fear and focus on the individual elements. Break your most vaguely defined fear into tiny pieces, and create a list of the concrete aspects of it that make you afraid. Then you resolve to deal with these fears one by one. You’ll find that many of the fears simply disappear when you look at them closely, others you’ll learn to deal with in a better way, and all in all your fears will no longer seem so big and insurmountable.
What is completely normal for professional sports also goes for many other aspects of life. An athlete training for an event puts the body through its paces in phases, and this is converted into improved strength and skills during downtime. It’s especially important to rest your mind and body in the last days before an important event. The mind and body know how to make perfect use of such time off, and when the time comes you will be stronger, more calm and more concentrated. Taking a break is not a sign of weakness, rather it shows strength… and it helps you to develop your endurance at the same time.
In the last hours and minutes before an event, you should not be rushing around trying to get ready. A much better approach is to thoroughly plan out any final tasks you need to do to wrap things up in advance – ideally, you should also take care of such activities well beforehand. If you have to coordinate something with someone, have you given those involved enough warning about exactly what’s going to happen? What will you wear, what things do you have to pack, when do you have to be where? Take care of the answers to these questions early enough and enjoy some additional time to relax – you really can make better use of the hours before an important even. Nothing throws things off track and wastes as much energy as last-minute stress.
Don’t use the last hours before your test, your competition or your performance review at work on any final hasty improvements. Don’t try solve five more example problems, and don’t look at your papers again for the hundredth time. This is the time for quieting your mind and body and improving your overall mood. Listen to some of your favorite music, enjoy a hot shower, go for a walk around the block – the main thing is that you focus on maintaining positive thoughts. Be happy with yourself and what you’ve already done. Give yourself some mental high fives. Do whatever makes you feel good and inspires a winning mood for your big event. Now you’re ready to go!
How do you get ready for important events? Do you get nervous or do you stay cool? Do you experience last minute stress, or maybe you’re always well prepared? What do you find makes you perform better? I’m now entering the last phase of my preparation…maybe you’d like to give me some tips. I would really like to hear from you! Just leave a comment, or write to me at email@example.com.