Food for thought: Something that I work on when riding is trying to remain calm and not letting my nerves getting the better of me. I’m generally pretty calm and confident, but with others watching me or in a dangerous or stressful situation I can feel my anxiety starting to rise. The past couple months I’ve been focusing on what my breathing patterns are like in different situations which is something I don’t usually notice unless I consciously think about it. When I am anxious my breathing is more shallow and I can feel the anxiety reside in my chest, when I breath in it feels like it only makes it down to my chest and I have to breath quicker because it’s not very efficient. The longer I allow myself to do this the more anxious I get. When I am utterly exhausted and don’t know how much more I’ve got (this can be in any situation not just riding) I can feel myself start to breath from deep in my belly in a very purposeful way letting me know I can and will keep going. When I am relaxed my breaths also come from deep in my belly.
When I start to feel nervous, I consciously switch my breathing pattern from my shallow chest breathing to my deep belly breathing and try to recreate my purposeful feeling. When you are nervous your sympathetic nervous system is activated which is designed to put you into a fight or flight mode in a dangerous situation. Vagus nerve or cranial nerve 10 is activated, it’s the longest cranial nerve in your body and effects your heart lungs and digestive tract. One of the ways to sooth it is to slow your breathing, so as I breath deeper I think of calming that nerve. Being able to understand what biologically is happening when I’m feeling nervous is satisfying and helpful to me.
The other thing I do to improve my anxiety level is practice when I’m calm so I’m more ready when it happens. What I mean by that is when I’m feeling calm I’ll allow myself to think about a situation that makes me nervous and get a little worked up about it then bring myself back to a calm state and repeat. This helps me practice bringing myself back down before I’m pushed into a situation that’ll push me in an anxious state. Am I still an anxious wreck sometimes? Yes 100%! Being able have a couple useful tools to help sooth myself has been helping in the frequent anxious situations I find myself in. Anyone else have strategies to settle themselves when bad nerves set in? Surely if people can go to war I can keep myself together enough to preform well even if I'm nervous!