Stop Slumps Before They Start
By: Sarah Frey, MS., CMT & Dr. Bob Neff, CMT

Frustration. Exhaustion. Stress. Despair.

If you’ve ever been in a performance slump or felt stuck in a rut, these are undoubtedly some emotions you’ve experienced.

You can now rest easy because performance slumps are not only something you can overcome, but they’re also preventable. Thought errors are what cause slumps, and that should be good news. If you’re the one causing your slump, then it’s within your power to fix it.

Typically a performance slump occurs first from one poor performance during competition. From here, you can go in one of two directions. You either let go of the poor performance or you continue to think about the past mistakes you made. The more past mistakes are thought about, the more likely two or three more consecutive bad performances will occur.

After several bad performances, fear of failure and low confidence start to dominate your thoughts, making it that much more frustrating that you’re not performing well when it matters most, though you know you’re capable of doing much more. The inability to identify what specifically is causing the poor performances often leaves you feeling powerless, accepting that this is as good as it’s going to get.

stuck in a slump

Fortunately, it’s entirely possible and doable to pull yourself out of this slump. To do so, you have to first recognize the causes of your performance rut:

  1. Consistently focusing on mistakes
  2. Anxiously anticipating negative future performances

Once you recognize the causes, you then begin to concentrate on controllable solutions for letting go of past mistakes and creating positive thoughts for upcoming performances. When a mistake occurs, acknowledge it; learn from it; plan for how to improve; and then let it go. Follow this plan for improvement with a positive affirmation and challenge yourself to identify a few positive accomplishments from that same past performance, no matter how small. The key to effectively letting go of those mistakes and rebuilding your confidence is using temporary words such as “sometimes” or “on that day” when thinking about the mistakes, and more permanent words when thinking about your successes, like “usually” or “often.”

To keep a more positive, optimistic outlook about upcoming performances, take action and plan for how you’ll handle the different challenging situations you may be faced with. Be sure that you imagine yourself successfully overcoming these challenges. If you notice your mind wandering to a negative place about those upcoming performances, take a deep breath to refocus yourself on the present moment (instead of the future “what-ifs” that you can’t control). In addition to imagining yourself successfully overcoming those challenges and breathing through the stressful thoughts, you should also keep a journal or chart your daily positive accomplishments so you can reflect on these prior to competition. Having the visual confirmation that you have successfully completed actions necessary to perform well in your upcoming competition is extremely helpful in combatting those negative thoughts and reminding yourself you’re ready for your competition!

The bottom line:

Remain aware of the causes of performance slumps, and the fact that YOU ARE CAPABLE of recovering from your slump, and you’ll be one step closer to not only overcoming your current performance rut, but preventing future ones!