One of the most common requirements for golf enthusiasts is controlling their anxiety. As a competitive golfer myself, I’ve learned three quick and easy ways that have worked for me and for me as well. There are still several other equally effective methods but most of them need more time and effort. Essentially, the secret to a good anxiety control technique is being able to achieve cognitive control of the thoughts that cause anxiety. And the three ways that I’ve listed below effectively achieve this and alleviate mild to moderate anxiety.
The Different Situations
A major circumstance that a golfer gets into can possibly cause him to feel anxious. Usual situations may include a player’s first tee or a shot that he thinks should definitely get in the hole, like knee-knocking three putts.
Smile And Take Deep Breaths
This is very easy to do, yet quite difficult to begin doing while you’re on the range. But if you take this technique to heart and do it while you’re feeling anxious, you’ll realize that these two moves do help relax your mind and body. Don’t give in to the frustration as it will only make matters worse, thus, making it harder to calm down. When you force yourself to start smiling, things will feel less tense. Breathing, well, that needs a little explanation.
The simple breaths will do, but deep breaths are more effective. Relax first so that your stomach is soft and is able to move through inhalation. As you do this, the lungs can fully expand and then you’ll be able to pull in a long, deep breath. So ironically, your abdominal muscles are tight while you’re breathing to relax.
Focus On The Short-Term Process Goals
One of the reasons for feeling anxious on the game is that we think too much about aiming for the hole, thinking too much about a specific outcome, like driving in the center of the fairway. Don’t get me wrong – it’s perfectly natural to desire this kind of outcome, although I think what you’re doing here is overemphasizing an outcome, which often leads to anxiety. This is what you call an outcome goal.
Process goals, on the other hand, enable you to focus on a single part of the game process. When you focus on, ‘keeping your eye on the ball’ or ‘stay in the moment,’ you are focusing on a process goal, something that is easier to achieve and does not cause too much anxiety that you can’t handle.
Let’s talk about an awesome process goal – one that experts refer to as the confidence drill. It’s a practice that involves invoking confident emotions whenever you need to. Try this when you have a bout of anxiety in the middle of a game. Simply pretend that you are the coolest, most self-confident golfer of all time. Imagine a situation wherein you are winning a very challenging game. Slowly, you begin to feel and act as if you were that confident golfer. Stay confident as you imagine hitting your balls without focusing on an expected outcome. Just stay in the moment. It does feel great. When you need to be self-reliant on the range again, or when you’re feeling anxious or hesitant, practice the confidence drill again. Be confident and take that shot.
Think About The Opponent
Most golf players make themselves anxious in competitive circumstances. A four-foot putt is one circumstance that makes them most anxious. Instead of concentrating on how they can do a great stroke, they are nervous about doing a stroke that would be to the opponent’s advantage. Of course, they’ll think of themselves as unskilled if they miss this shot. But why not concentrate on your opponent for a change? Try the technique called focus flip.
In a competition, there are difficult and easy shots. When the shot is easy, you want so much to get that shot but you are nevertheless anxious and you feel that you are going to miss that putt. But think about it this way. Since the shot is quite easy, your opponent is surely nervous himself because he thinks you’re really going to make that putt. That’s the focus flip, focusing on what the opponent might be thinking or feeling at that moment. Focus on their anxiety and project your own anxiety on them. Get away from thinking about those butterflies in your stomach or the sweaty hands. Taking your mind off from your own anxiety stops the negative thought patterns and eventually helps you relax and calm down. Then you can go on and do the confidence drill and get rid of that awful anxiety.
Remember that with a little imagination, or perhaps with a practice buddy, these easy techniques can be done on the golf course or at home. I bet you’ll be less anxious and more confident in your game like I was!