Schuijers is specialized in mentoring people with high-stress jobs, from Olympic athletes to air-traffic controllers The core of Schuijers’ lecture was composed of the six circles of attention [by Eberspächer – red.]. The first level is ‘you and your task’. At the second level, you get distracted by an external action or event. This goes up until the fifth level, where you start thinking about the consequences of winning and losing; and finally the sixth level, where you end up in an existential crisis and wonder what the heck you are doing here.
Now, when you are running during the Batavierenrace, and you find yourself in level six, do not despair. It is possible to return to level one. Schuijers recommends to focus on each step that you take. If you are a competitive person, you can also run ‘from butt to butt’, which means you basically stay at the second level all the time. Other tips can be found in the list below.
Five tips (in no particular order)
- Don’t try too hard. Schuijers: ‘My first recommendation to a lot of people, especially athletes, is to not push themselves too much. Sometimes normal is fine. Set realistic goals and be willing to change them.’
- Don’t try to deal with your mistakes or shortcomings by swearing. Schuijers: ‘Some football coaches say: there are no mistakes, there’s only feedback. I think this is wrong. Just learn to accept your mistakes and move on.’
- Self-awareness is key. Learn to recognize when you’re in the fifth or sixth level of the circles of attention, then try to return to level one by focusing on your task instead.
- Recognize signs of your body that tell you when you are stressed. For example, through your digestion system, not being able to eat, or not being able to fall asleep. To relax, try (classical) music, breathing exercises, adjusting your goals, and language (instead of ‘I must’, tell yourself ‘I can’ or ‘I will do this’).
- Often, you already have the necessary skills or knowledge. You just fail to access it at the right moment because of stress. Know when to peak. Schuijers: ‘It would be a shame if you set a PR two weeks after the Olympic Games.’
So, whether you are nervous for the Batavierenrace or for an exam, know that there is something you can do about it. Through self-awareness, language, music, and adjusting your goals, you can ensure that you peak at the right moment. Which, for some, might be at the afterparty of the Batavierenrace, but that’s entirely up to you.