Relaxation skills can be just taking a deep breath, and letting all of the air in your lungs out while consciously feeling your shoulders relax as you tell yourself its aaaaaaaaall goooood.
Keeping things in perspective, means that there are other things in life besides this one moment if this one moment happens to be what is causing you the most anxiety. Just
competing and going to the game can be stressful for you if you are new, or if it is an important game. Butterflies are sometimes a part of competing no matter what level you’re playing at. Being able to relax and calm yourself, is an important skill in your preparation and ability to enjoy your experience in softball.
Whether you feel it or not, if you are anxious or tense, it will affect your physical reactions enough to have an effect on your skills. Not to mention the psychological effect it will have when a quick decision needs to be made. This emphasizes the importance of being able to not only remove anxiety but to maintain composure when things get stressful. Being able to calm those nerves during a game, a training session, or at any time, will help your performance in almost any situation.
Timing of Relaxation
On the day of a game, you might be feeling nervous and have butterflies in your stomach as you think about how you will play. You would be amazed at how relaxation can take away some of the anxiety. It can allow you to use positive self-talk to re-focus your energy into having fun and improving your skills instead of failing. This will allow you to relax and focus on your abilities and how much fun you are going to have. You need to remember why you are playing softball; and that is because you love it.
After an Error
Errors are a part of softball, it is how games are won and lost. How you handle the errors and move to the next play will be to determine the effect that errors have on your performance. Being able to relax will allow you to use the tools, like cue words, to re-focus on your next opportunity.
Taking that breath before executing a skill can take tension away from your muscles and let you focus on executing the skill. Practice relaxation so that it only takes a few seconds to get to that comfortable place again. Settling in with a deep breath before the pitcher pitches the ball for example is a great way to “breathe away” any anxiety that you might be feeling as you are preparing for the ball to be hit.
Relaxation is also an important skill to enhance other mental training skills as well. If you are tense, your body and mind are more focused on the things making you tense than the things that can help you to relax and move forward.
Types of Relaxation
Relaxation With Breathing
Breathing is the quickest and most common way to relax. The first thing you will hear said to someone who is upset or stressed out is, “breaaaathe.” That’s because it is the first thing we forget to do when we are stressed. You may also see someone when they are just about to get into the batters box, they will take a big breath in and you can actually see their shoulders rise up and then down as they step in and look at the pitcher. Breathing is one of the easiest and most used skills and can be beneficial before, after and during skill execution in softball.
Imagine being on a beach with the sun shining and the ocean in front of you. I bet you just took a breath and said to yourself, nice. It probably made you feel more relaxed instantly. It does for many people that are visual people. During competition this tool is great for re- focusing after an error or after a distraction. Seeing your last great performance for example, will allow you to relax and use your mental training skills to move on to the next play with confidence if you need to. Or something as common as a stop sign can tell you to stop any negative self-talk when you see one.
Relaxation With Sound
It is true that some sounds are relaxing. Imagine the sound of the ocean with the sight of the sun and the beach. Relaxed yet? I bet you are. The sound of nice music, and even the sound of quiet can be relaxing. Experiment with things and see how they make you feel and what makes you feel relaxed in different situations.
Youth and Relaxation
Youth may not have developed the abilities to focus on sound or visualization even though the may already imagine things all the time. The best way to work with relaxation and youth would be to use breathing. Have them attempt to feel themselves relaxing. It may not be easy since they are only recently beginning to become aware of their bodies and physiological reactions. Give them lots of time to practice under familiar and various conditions. This will give them a great foundation as they explore other ways to relax. Let them guide some of the relaxation activities and see what they come up with. I am sure you will be surprised.
Adolescence and Relaxation
Many times adolescence will first display nervous laughter when trying to consciously relax using activities in a group setting; this is natural. Eventually though, it will get easier and easier. It’s a good idea to practice the skills alone or in private if it’s more comfortable. Work more in groups when it becomes easy. If you are a coach let your participants know in advance that you will be working on relaxation so they can mentally prepare.
Relaxation Skills as an Adult
You likely have had many experiences where you had to relax because of a stressful situation, or maybe you are already good at relaxation. Sometimes the challenge as an adult is to allow yourself to try new things if you feel good about the tools you already use. I challenge you to try all of the relaxation exercises and see if any of them might be a good addition to the strategies you use now.
Sometimes it is difficult to relax if you do not have any previous experience. Breathing is the easiest way to relax. By trying the different forms of relaxation, you will definitely find at least one method that works best for you. Experiment under different situations during practices and games and you will find that when you need it, it will be easier than you think.
Practice Makes You Better
It can take you as little as five seconds to relax when you are good at the techniques you are most comfortable with. The best time in softball to be good at relaxation skills of course is during competition. When you need to re-focus on something after being distracted in some way. This tool will also be great in your day to day activities as you come across stressful situations or anxiety in your daily life.
Try relaxation exercises as you feel comfortable, and then record some of your experiences in the notes pages. You will find that as you gain experience with the different ways to relax, it will become easier and easier to relax when you need it the most.