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In the world of sports, where physical prowess, mental fortitude, and unwavering determination converge, athletes are expected to deliver their very best performance under immense pressure. In 2021, The American College of Sports Medicine shared that about 30% of women and 25% of men who are student-athletes reported having anxiety. From the deafening roars of a passionate crowd to the weight of their expectations, athletes often find themselves grappling with an invisible adversary known as sports performance anxiety.

Sports performance anxiety, an affliction that affects athletes across all levels and disciplines, can manifest in a variety of ways. Whether it's a professional basketball player missing a crucial free throw, a young gymnast stumbling on the balance beam, or a seasoned golfer struggling to sink a putt, the paralyzing grip of anxiety can significantly undermine even the most skilled and experienced competitors.

One Technique that Alston for Athletes suggests athletes deploy in times of anxiety is box breathing. Box breathing is a powerful breathing technique that has gained popularity among individuals seeking to manage stress, enhance focus, and promote a sense of calm. While it is not exclusive to Navy SEALs, they have been known to utilize this technique to maintain composure and mental clarity in high-pressure situations.

How to Box Breath

Step 1: Inhale 4, hold 4, exhale 4, hold 4, repeat.

Step 2: Inhale through your nose for a count of 5, hold for a count of 7, exhale through your mouth to a count of 9, and repeat. Say: Energy in, fatigue out if this helps you

Do this when you are nervous, angry, taking a test & don’t know an answer, waiting to

perform, during warmups, before you are about to present when someone is frustrating you

when you need to reset emotions when trying to relax the body & be loose. Use it in practice

& use it often so it becomes automatic when competing.

What are some benefits of Box Breathing?

1. Lowers Stress

Box breathing is known for its relaxation abilities. Studies have found that regulating your breath has the potential to reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and calm your nervous system.

2. Emotional Regulation

Box breathing encourages mindfulness and self-awareness, making it a valuable tool for managing emotions and promoting emotional balance.

3. Calms the Mind

While this is a great tool for anxiety, it can also be used for other things. Box Breathing can be used before bed to help relax the mind and body and enhance sleep.

In the arena of sports, performance anxiety lurks as a formidable foe, capable of undermining even the most skilled athletes. However, armed with knowledge, understanding, and effective strategies, such as box breathing, we can conquer this invisible adversary and unlock our full potential.

Alston for Athletes logo, surrounded by arrows which read: inhale, hold, exhale, repeat

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