With mindfulness, Maria began to note her thoughts, feelings and body sensations at various points during her tournaments. At the beginning we stopped each round shot by shot. Thinking about it, Maria quickly realized that in those Clutch moments of competition, she would turn her attention away from the line the ball was supposed to run on and instead focus on how her hands felt. However, on days when she felt more secure and less pressured, she did not notice any pulsation or tremors in her hands.
While the post-play reflections helped Maria raise her awareness, the observations weren't the only key to improving Maria's performance. The next task of accepting would prove even more important. In the future, Maria had to watch when she experienced the feeling in her hands and then simply accept that it was her body's natural response to the stress.
It may surprise you (as does Maria) that many elite athletes have similar experiences under the greatest pressure. There is nothing wrong with the athlete (or his brain) if he feels less confident and notices distracting body sensations or negative self-talk. It just means that the brain needs an operating system update in the form of mindset training.
In order to retrain Maria's brain, we introduced a "primer" exercise into her everyday life. We started with something light and manageable: a short, mindful minute of breathing each morning. After Maria finished the breathing exercise, we introduced pictures. Maria focused on breathing and then imagined her day and the competition. She would bring a solid performance to her eye and her hands would be shaking. It may sound counterintuitive, but it was important for Maria not only to think about what would go well, but what would not. This has contributed to the acceptance.
If Maria could use pictures to anticipate her body's nervousness and physical response to these emotions, she could also use pictures to see that she is successful despite her feelings. It was about building intentionality. She would imagine looking down, feeling the fear, and noticing the pulsation and trembling in her hands. And then Maria would imagine taking a deep breath, accepting her condition, exhaling, pulling back her putter and watching her ball travel along the line exactly where she wanted it.