As the Olympics have just concluded, I wanted to share a story on how affirmations helped an Olympic skater to land her jumps. As reported in the New York Times, it was the short program and Gracie Gold, the American national skating champion was warming up. She could feel her legs start to tingle before she skated, a hint that they might betray her. Then the nervousness began.
On Gracie’s opening jump, a triple-triple combination, she landed her first jump with difficulty. Then a thought rushed into her head. “Is this my Olympic moment?” she recalled saying to herself. “I’m going to be on my butt?” She quickly told herself no. She fought for and landed her second triple.
Then, during her double axel, her body was off balance as it flew through the air. Her negative self-talk piped up again and tried to discourage her. But Gracie countered with a perfect affirmation. “I’ve come too far not to land this stupid double axel,” she told herself. “I’m going to land it with a smile.” And that was what she did.
Gold finished fourth on the short program and fourth overall. Not bad for her first Olympics.
Keeping a positive mental attitude was a key in the victories of other Olympic athletes. Elite athletes athletes know that their mental preparation and mental toughness are as important, if not more important, than their physical conditioning. Affirmations are a wonderful way to keep their “eyes on the prize” and keep those negative voices at bay.
Someone recently asked me for the best affirmations for overcoming fear and worry. All fears and worries come down to a single fear: the fear of not being able to cope. If people knew that that they could successfully cope or deal with any future situation, they would have little to fear. Therefore, the ideal affirmation to respond to this concern is: “I can handle it.”
Another affirmation that describes this faith in one’s ability to cope is, “I have the ability to create support for myself in my life.” In my book Words That Heal, I list these and other helpful affirmations that can foster your faith in your ability to cope with whatever comes your way.
Another way to deal with fear and worry is through cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a psychotherapy that helps you to alter anxious self-talk and mistaken beliefs that give the body anxiety-producing messages. For example, saying to yourself, “What if I have an anxiety attack when I’m driving home?” will make it more likely that an attack will ensue. Overcoming negative self-talk involves creating positive counterstatements such as “I can feel anxious and still drive,” or “I can handle it.” What often underlies our negative self-talk is a set of negative beliefs about ourselves and the world. Examples of such mistaken beliefs are, “I am powerless,” “Life is dangerous,” and “It’s not okay to show my feelings.” Replacing these beliefs with empowering truths can help to heal the roots of anxiety
Finally, I recommend monitoring diet and nutrition. Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine can aggravate anxiety and leave one more prone to anxiety and panic attacks. Other dietary factors such as sugar, certain food additives and food sensitivities can make some people feel anxious. Seeing a nutritionally oriented physician or therapist may help you to identify and eliminate possible offending substances from your diet. He or she can also help you to research supplements and herbs (e.g., GABA, kava, B vitamins, chamomile and valerian teas) that are known to calm the nervous system.