Coping with fight anxiety

Do you ever feel stressed or anxious before a fight?

It is completely normal to experience those emotions. Everyone to some degree experiences them when they go into a fight; they may not call it stress or anxiety but an increased heart rate, ‘butterflies’ in the stomach, feeling tired, feeling ‘numb’, clammy hands are all signs of our body getting ready to fight.

As a fighter there has to be a level of acceptance to experiencing this if you want to become the best fighter you can be. We actually waste a lot of time trying to fight these emotions and it usually results in us feeling more stressed and anxious than before.

Here are some more tips to manage the stress and anxiety before a fight:

1. Notice and Refocus.

Nervous energy is part of the process of competing; if you want to grow as an athlete taking on challenges is vital for development. That will come hand in hand with our minds natural fight or flight response as mentioned earlier; when you notice the clammy hands, dry mouth, ‘butterflies’ view it as ‘My body is getting ready to fight’ and refocus on what you have to do in the fight to win. Focusing on what you have to do has no judgement involved, it helps you to remain focused on the job in front of you rather than being caught up in your head.

This doesn’t mean the nervous will disappear but you learn to perform despite feeling nervous.

2. Preparation is key.

Think about things that you can control. Just by having simple things prepared already reduces stress before even getting in the ring. For example; turning up to the venue in plenty of time; having everything prepared in a bag ready; having a playlist that you know helps you to feel more relaxed or gives you energy; making sure to have plenty of time to warm up or stretch before. This may vary for athletes, some like to have a shorter time to warm up on pads because the adrenaline makes them much more tired usual. Learn to find the things that work for you.

3. Remember to breathe.

I’m sure so many articles and books have said just breathe; which is so much easier said than done. It’s recommended to practice this in less stressful situations and build it up; it really doesn’t have to be a long meditation practice. Instead, it can be as simple as sitting with your cup of coffee in the morning and taking ten deep breathes. You focus your attention on the breath coming in and out for ten breaths.

That’s it, nothing more nothing less - You might find it is much harder to do thank you think. Just practice redirecting you focus on your breathe; that way you learn to direct your focus, be present and get enough oxygen to the brain.

4. Focus on what you can control.

Stress comes from things that we can’t control- for example what your opponent is thinking or doing, who is in the crowd and what they are thinking.

What you can control is what you do and what you want to do in the ring. Ultimately, all you can do is do your best; and this is where training is vital- You can control how you train, so optimizing training to make sure you are in the best possible position to fight is key. Then when it comes to competition focus on what you have been doing in training and what you will do in the ring which will help you to get into a ‘flow state’ (optimal performance is linked with ‘flow state’- where you are fully present and focused on the task at hand).

Lena Kessler is a trainee Sports & Exercise psychologist currently based in the UK and an active Muay Thai fighter. Lena is available for one-on-one and group coaching face-to-face, over the phone and via Skype.

Website -

Instragram - @Lena.A.k


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