Resilience isn’t just about being tough. It’s the ability to adapt and overcome change, failure, obstacles or fear to keep moving toward your goals. Whether it’s in your training, studies, career, sporting pursuits or elsewhere in life, we’ve got five mental performance hacks to help you draw on your resilience and perform at your best when those clutch moments roll around.
1. Train your mind
Some call it visualization. Others call it running the race in your mind. You might call it mental practice or mental training. This mental performance tactic is all about picturing the task that awaits you, then mentally running through how you will approach it and crush it. (And if your mind drifts to all the ways it might go wrong, flip the script to picture how you’ll overcome those hurdles and come out a winner.) If it works for the world’s best athletes, it can work for you, too.
2. Bring back your power pose
Remember last decade, when everyone was power posing to feel strong and less terrified in job interviews? Well after being dismissed as pseudoscience, power posing is back!
While there’s no evidence to back up the initial claim that it affects hormones, renewed research has shown power posing can increase confidence and make people feel more powerful.
How do you do it? Find a private space and adopt an expansive pose with your body for a few minutes. It may feel a bit silly at first, but try these poses and let those superhero vibes flow through you:
- Standing with your feet planted wide, shoulders down and back, chin up and hands on your hips.
- Standing with your feet planted wide, shoulders down and back, chin up and arms raised in a V shape.
While raising your ‘V for Victory’ arms during your job interview or first date is unlikely to go down well, a bit of posing before you leave home could help you get into the right frame of mind. Then when it’s game on, maintaining a tall posture will help you convey competence and confidence in the moment for the best mental performance.
3. Fake it ‘til you make it
A positive attitude can be the difference between achieving your goals or falling short. While putting a smile on your face and feeling positive isn’t always easy when you’re nervous, a little “fake it ’til you make it” could help you to go a long way.
Similar to power poses, research has shown that simply mimicking the smile you might make or the mood you might be in when you’re confident, secure, and positive can help you to see the world in a more positive way. You’ve probably heard about the “mind-body connection” – in this case, if your body bears the smile of a confident person, your mind will follow suit.
4. Give your brain the best chance
There are two things your brain needs if it’s ever going to perform properly – nutritious food and good quality sleep. You know how we’re always telling you to eat before you work out? The same logic applies to public speaking, job interviews, or your audition for The Voice: eat a nutritious carb and protein-filled snack about 1.5 hours before you’re in action. Just like your muscles, your mind needs energy to perform at its best. (It helps avoid mortifying stomach grumble moments, too.)
If anxiety makes you nauseous, make sure you’ve had a sustaining meal the night before, or a big breakfast to keep you going. And while you may think coffee makes you sharper, don’t overdo it – the experts suggest that 400mg of caffeine per day (which is equal to around four brews) is the upper limit. Any more than that and you may experience insomnia, headaches, and nervousness.
Good quality sleep is just as important as nutrition when it comes to fuelling your brain. If your mind tends to be on overdrive the night before a big event, we’ve got your back with a visualization to help you grow positive thoughts and get a restful sleep.
5. Stay in the moment
We often get so caught up worrying about the outcome of an event, that we forget to be IN the moment when it actually happens causing our mental performance to suffer. When it’s time to step up to the plate, let go of your big end goal and just enjoy the action.
You may have heard athletes talking about ‘going back to basics’, ‘forgetting about the competition’, or ‘not overthinking it’ – by freeing your mind from the stakes, you allow yourself to simply love what you do and perform at your best. Your goal doesn’t go away, but the stress and pressure that come with it are released in that moment.