How To Stop Psyching Yourself Out

goals mindset success May 12, 2023

Have you ever felt like there is a whole debate club living in your head? It’s particularly loud when you are under pressure, faced with a challenge or going for a goal you really want?

It’s as if one part of your brain is saying “Go for it, you can do it”, while another voice negates that fiercely, “No you can’t, who do you think you are? Get out while you still can.” And then of course there is that other slightly more reasonable voice that convinces you to" just try" , "do your best"  but then comes in and  chokes when the pressure gets too intense. 

If you have ever had that happen, you are definitely not alone.

For some reason, there were lots of big sporting events for people in my life this past weekend and that is a classic place for this mind game to rear its ugly head. First, my client Teresa was scheduled for a Spartan 10K trail run and called Friday with very “rational” reasons why she should postpone and essentially “get out while she still could”. Another client Jill was signed up to do a ½ Marathon and also found some crafty ways to try and “punt” her event.

It didn't stop there, my super competitive husband, Stephen left nervously for a golf tournament worried he would "bomb like he did last time". Finally, my son Ty was in his first Varsity baseball playoff game and feared he would "choke" and let his teammates down.

And all of that took place in just 3 days! 

It just goes to show how frequently this can happen. Whether it’s a job interview, sales call, date, or athletic endeavor psyching yourself out can be debilitating and it's a guaranteed way to compromise your abilities. The good news is there are ways to control those pesky nerves, shut those voices up and maximize your talent.

And my crew proved that! I have to proudly share that despite how they may have felt, they all overcame their doubts and fears. Teresa finished with flying colors, Jill boldly conquered her mindset and health challenges and completed her first ½ marathon, my husband’s team won 3rd place and my son’s team won a nail biter of game and for the season championships.

So if they can do it, you can too! Here are 5 ways to stop you from psyching yourself out.

  1. Shift your focus off others..... and yourself. Often, we get psyched out because we are worried what other people will think. Research says that “belonging” is a basic human need. Therefore anything that threatens that status quo will create a stress response: fight, fright, flight.                     Yet staying in that perceived safety zone does not guarantee unlimited love or belonging and it prevents us from growing and performing at our best. We must take chances.                                                             So, find a tribe of trusted friends and supporters who without judgement for conditions want you to be your best self. And remember, you don’t need all 8 billion people to like you. You are already loved and you DO BELONG!

Also be aware of focusing too much on yourself or you may fall into "analysis paralysis". When we become so hyper conscious or overly concerned with doing things "right", “being perfect” or even "feeling" every physical sensation, we can create problems and limitations that don’t exist.                                                          Instead focus on the task at hand. What is your objective and what actions can you take to achieve that goal. A director on Guiding Light would often instruct us “faster, funnier and more passion where appropriate.” And as she walked away, she would add “ especially faster”. I got it. We were over thinking and over emoting every line. Our focus was on "how well we said the line" instead of "how well we were achieving the objective" of the scene. So, get out of your head and into action.

  1. Ask, “What’s the worst that can happen?”...or add the addendum.  I have to admit, I almost didn’t include this question because I used to hate it. Years ago, I tried this strategy to calm my nerves at every acting audition. What’s the worst? I’ll die. Okay, that realistically was not going to happen and losing the part or doing a terrible job was clearly not death either. However, in my stressed-out irrational state, it felt awfully close. Hence my stress loop continued.
    But one day grasping for something to help, I added an addendum to this question. I thought ok the worst thing that could happen is I don’t get this job or any other acting job ever. Then, here was the kicker, I actually put myself on my death bed reflecting back. From that place, would I actually think not getting acting work was the absolute worst? And the answer was always a resounding NO. In fact, on the contrary from my death bed, I was actually really proud that I tried and had the courage to put myself out there. I had no regrets. And THAT was a lot more empowering.

Bottom line, both options of this question offer a change in perspective that can help bring clarity, reduce stress and redirect the negative voices. Use whichever version works for you.

  1. Create an “empowered”, “safe”, “focused” or some other desired zone for your ultimate performance. I recently coached a high achieving golfer. I had her imagine being at the golf tee when she was playing her best.

Suddenly, she started laughing. I asked what’s so funny? She replied, “I feel like I’m in a phone booth and I really like it.” She continued, “In this phone booth I am completely focused, I can’t hear anyone else, not even the doubting voices in my head.  I feel unstoppable".  So now whenever she needs to golf under pressure, she imagines walking into her “phone booth”.

Interesting side note, I went to sit at my dining room table today to write this article, and I was overcome with a heavy feeling. I realized I was starting to perceive that space as my “unproductive zone.” Yikes!  That wasn’t even a pressure situation, but this still applied. So be conscious of the “identity” you give the places, you want to perform at your best.

  1. Create your "recipe for success. which includes Identifying and duplicating the physical stance of your peak performing self. We essentially have  “recipes on how to stand, breath, move and think" for every emotional state. Most people tense up their shoulders and have a pit feeling in their stomach while stressed. However, when they feel empowered, they stand taller, feel more grounded, and breath slower. You can get even more specific by going through all the senses, what do you see, feel, hear, smell, taste. How do you stand, walk, or move?

I had a client who was applying for a new job. She had been on several interviews but nothing was working out. So we got very clear on her "recipe for success" including ingredients like: physical stance, posture, walk vocal quality and pace, as well as her mindset in that empowered state. The next interview she walked in like she had been working at that company for years and sure enough she was hired!! Nothing else had changed.....her resume,  qualifications, references were the same. But physically owning that new position got her the job! .

  1. This final strategy seems strange but it’s simple and has some compelling research to back it up. When we squeeze our left fist, it activates the right side of the brain which influences our creative and physical "output".  So, in studies when high performance athletes, clenched their left fists, they were better able to maintain peak performance levels despite the pressure.  In another study, subjects had greater creative output including better ideas and solutions while under stress, when they clenched their left fist. Give it a try....I'd love to know how this works for you.


Where there is a will there is a way and where there is pressure, there are also ways to hack the brain and body for performance success. It's possible, you CAN do it!!


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