Gareth Fox

Gareth Fox’s new monthly column gets first airing this week

A few days ago I received a message from one of my clients, a county footballer.

I am a hypnotherapist, specialising in sports performance. He is an extremely positive and focused personality. We work together on downloading his Key Performance Indicators into his subconscious mind, so that they are executed in the same way you or I drive a car – without conscious thought. We work on his speed by eliminating self-doubt. We work on his composure and his self-esteem both on and off the pitch. His results and feedback have been phenomenal. A string of outstanding performances in the National League have left us looking forward to seeing where he can take his performance levels in this years Championship. So I was surprised to read his words, “…I’m lost…and I’m not in control…” I quickly began to draft my reply.

I understand….these are extremely strange times…stick as much to the normal routine as possible.”

I’d sent something similar to another client just before, but in his case something didn’t fit.

Matches are off, training cancelled, gyms closed. Remove these three elements from a GAA player and you’d be hard pushed to find any remaining routine other than meal times and sleep. There is certainly no sofa culture. Home is the place least lived. It is the life least familiar. No wonder he was experiencing a lack of control. It is no exaggeration to say that the fundamental core of his everyday existence has been shut down. He, like so many others, is a routine-based athlete. Mandatory confinement is calling for a complete redesigning of his daily life with the most blurred time limits to build within, not to mention restricted space. Yes, the population as a whole is under the same confinements, but our athletes will be some of the most affected by the change, and must be vigilant.

As human beings we have a need for certainty. We need to know that everything is fine, that we have a job, our partner loves us – that life is going to continue as before. Yet today there is worry; there is nervousness and an unease about an unknown future – the very definition of anxiety. Statistics show that 1 in 10 people in Ireland suffers from anxiety in any given week. And it is likely that this current situation is perfect climate for those numbers to increase, especially in the sporting world, unless measures are taken. So what can we do? The most important thing to understand is that there is much that you can control. Your thoughts are like a classroom full of children – without supervision they can create all kinds of havoc. But command them to do something and they will obey. Take back control of what you are allowing yourself to think – put the teacher in the classroom.

Here are four tips to help maintain calm in a crisis:

1. Change your perspective

Your mind only responds to the pictures you create and the words you say to yourself. You can choose exactly how you perceive today’s events. You can choose to feel panic and stressed or you can choose to shift your perspective and see something new. Your choice comes down to two things: the pictures you make in your head, and the words you say to yourself. You can choose to see this as a catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions, or an unfortunate blip that we can’t do anything about.

2. Focus on the present

Your thoughts can only be controlled by using the present tense. The more you hypothesise about what could happen, the more you will feel out of control. When you find your mind wandering off down the rabbit hole of “what if,” bring yourself back to the present moment. Meditation is an excellent tool to keep you grounded in the present. The aim of meditation is not to have no thoughts, but to practice not engaging with them.

3. Talk about it

A problem shared is a problem halved. When you are faced with a crisis, talking about it with a friend or family member can help you gain perspective. In situations of international panic, excessive talking and catastrophising are common. Step away from conversations that are fuelling your fear. It is good to talk but confide in those close to you if you feel your worries are getting the better of you.

4. Make time to relax

True relaxation is an alien feeling for many of us. Take time out to dedicate to relaxing your mind and body – sleep does not count here! Relaxing activities such as a slow-paced yoga classes online, guided meditation or hypnosis audios stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system – the body’s ‘rest and digest’ mode. This helps to reduce the feelings of stress and its impact.The more you are able to actively relax, the more you will be able to maintain a state of calm in your daily life.

Gareth Fox is a qualified RTT Hypnotherapist and Peak Performance Coach who works with inter-county footballers. In this new monthly column, he will provide advice on the difficulties of confinement and offer ways to improve peak mental performance. For information on guided meditation or hypnosis audios contact

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