Q: “I haven’t been in a car, on track, for months. I’m going to be in the car for the first time next month, and I find myself super nervous about it – way more anxiety about it than I’ve usually had. It’s to the point of self-doubt and wondering if I should even do it. I’ve had similar situations in the past, and it usually disappears as soon as I unload the car and get on track. But this time it seems stronger. And I know self-doubt is super-dangerous, given the situations racing can put you in. Is there anything I can do to calm my anxiety? I love racing and being at the track, and it’s not something I want to give up on. But at the moment, the nervousness is a bit overwhelming. Thanks for any insight.”
A: You’re not the only driver to have ever felt this way. I read an article a while ago about Michael Schumacher, and he talked about some of the same feelings. So, you’re in good company.
Like you said, once you get there and get into prepping the car and driving, it feels right. That’s another one of those things that practically every driver experiences. So, know that it’s going to happen.
What you’re really talking about is focus. If you focus on the right things – like how much you love racing and how you feel fine once you get the car unloaded and start driving – you won’t have the feelings of self-doubt (not to a bad level, at least). What you need to do, then, is focus on those two things: You love racing, and you know that you’ll feel good when you’re at the track.
Of course, it’s easy to say to just focus on those things, but it’s not always easy. That’s why I strongly recommend you do mental imagery of those two things, and add a trigger word or phrase to it. At home, get comfortable in a chair, relax, breathe slowly, close your eyes, and imagine being at the track, unloading the car, getting ready, getting in the car, and then driving – and all the time you’re in the moment of just doing those things, and not thinking about what could go wrong. You’re focused on what you love and are doing. You say, “Love being here” each and every time you imagine this. Your trigger phrase is “Love being here.”
The more you do this, the more this mindset trigger will be programmed into your mind. Then, when you start to feel some self-doubt, say “Love being here” to yourself and imagine being at the track, unloading, prepping, and driving – and loving it.
One more thought. Since you were last in the car on track, have you ever woken up, looked at your pillow, and seen all your driving talent/skill had leaked out of your head overnight? I bet not! So, all your skills, talent, and abilities are still in your head (that’s where you store them). You just have to access them again, and you will. Take a little time to get back into the rhythm of driving again, and then you’ll find it all comes back the way you want. And you’re going to love being there!
Remember, the key is using your trigger each and every time you begin to get some self-doubt, and then imagine what being at the track is going to be like.
Finally, there is no point in trying to resist the self-doubt. Accept it, but then move onto your “Love being here” program and picture in your mind how much fun you’re going to have. When I say accept it, accept that everyone feels that way at times (even Michael Schumacher!), and that it means that you really care. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t feel this way. You want to do well, so any sense of self-doubt or nervousness is a good thing. It means that it matters to you.