for those who love the outdoors

29 June, 2023


Unlocking Your Potential: Embracing the Power of your Butterflies

Before every big event, the butterflies in my tummy go on the rampage and I just feel like running away and not stepping over the start line. The fear begins to take over, the nerves kick in and I start to internally tremble and want to have a meltdown on the spot!

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Photo: On the start line of an Arctic Marathon - trembling so much my hands were shaking and my teeth were chattering.

I knew I needed to learn how to embrace those butterflies and channel these negative emotions. I always get to the start line prepared: training tick, kit tick, fuelling tick, race plan tick but it’s always the last-minute nerves that throw me off track.

So, I rang Zoe Carroll, a performance coach and asked her for help.

Here is what Zoe had to say:

So why was Nicky feeling so nervous as the start of the event approached?

You might have felt this yourself. You’ve got something that means a lot to you coming up and you’ve been looking forward to it, but as it gets closer and closer, suddenly it switches from being something fun, to a looming spectre, bringing anxiety and stress with it. It can make you want to run for the hills.

The good news is that this is completely normal!

AND it isn’t something that you need to worry about once you understand what’s really happening.

We are used to viewing feeling anxious as something negative. Something that we want to reduce or avoid. What is actually happening is that your body is simply getting you ready to perform. It’s a natural response to things that you are excited about, or things that are important to you. Sometimes we need our body to respond like this in order to run away from a threat (you might have heard of the flight/fight system) but this isn’t its only purpose.

This ability of your body to ramp up its performance has another, altogether more exciting, and all too often overlooked purpose.

It’s getting you ready to perform at your absolute best.

If you did need to run away from a threat, you want your body to put all of its resources into that escape. When you want to run your personal best in a race, you still want your body to be ‘all in’ and to run at the limit of your ability.

Once you know that the butterflies, the nauseous feeling, your racing heartbeat or your sweaty palms are your body responding to your wishes to do well, rather than an unwelcome dose of fear hijacking you, you can take steps to use your body’s response to do your best work. You need to embrace the fact that your body is simply getting ready for what it has been preparing to do. It is doing its job, it is releasing adrenaline and providing a natural stimulant, which can help to increase your performance.

The ‘anxiety’ that you feel is just your body and mind warming up together, so that when that gun signals the start of the race, you can relax and let your mind and body do what it has been training for.

These fear attacks happen repeatedly in the sports world. Many athletes report feeling sick and nauseous before events. In sport, we call it performance anxiety.

In the world of drama and entertainment it’s known as stage fright.

In social situations where we want people to like us or to feel like we belong, it can be known as social anxiety.

By giving it these names, we are often associating it with something that is uncomfortable and that we would rather avoid. We know that nerves are often associated with negative emotions, but it's important to recognize their positive aspects. The surge of adrenaline and heightened state of alertness they bring can be harnessed to our advantage. Nerves prepare our bodies to perform at their best by increasing focus, energy, and motivation. They also help us excel under pressure, improve memory and recall, and boost creativity and problem-solving skills.

So, if there’s something that you would love to do, but thinking about it makes your stomach flip, lean into that feeling and recognise that your body is getting ready to propel you off the start line.

By experiencing nerves in a controlled environment, you can train yourselves to perform better under pressure. Over time, you can become more adept at managing nerves, channeling the associated energy positively, and delivering your best performance even when the stakes are high.

When you start to feel those butterflies follow the simple steps below to help you perform at your best.

  • Welcome the butterflies.
  • Smile.
  • Know that you are having this feeling because what you are going to do is important to you.
  • Relax your shoulders.
  • Breathe slowly.
  • Take the action.
  • Trust yourself to perform brilliantly.

So, the next time you feel those butterflies in your stomach, embrace them as a sign that your body is gearing you up for a remarkable performance. Think of yourself as a sports car revving your internal engines on the starting grid ready to release your brakes!

It is time to welcome the Butterflies!

Happy Adventuring.

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Nicky Chisholm

Contributor Images 33

My very first adventure was on a Tall Ship called The Sir Winston Churchill when I had just turned 18.

I have loved adventures ever since. Although I still get seasick 30 years on!

I would describe myself as an everyday adventurer. I try and squeeze adventure into my every day from walks, swims and runs to film, podcasts and books. I am always on the look out for communities to connect with and adventures to be found.

I have just hit 50 and my adventure journey has changed so many times over the years, from a 20-year-old canoeing and sailing instructor, to a Mum with young children teaching them to embrace the outdoors through camping, building dens and cooking on open fires, to a mum of young teens when we surfed, coast steered, climbed Ben Nevis and swam in the North Sea!

My boys are in their late teens now and are slowly flying the nest, it is here I find myself now, ready to embrace the next stage of my adventure journey.

Embracing my new found freedom and loving being outside, I am ready to do some exploring!

My adventure journey has included Moonwalks, marathon walks along Hadrians Wall and the South Coast, firewalks, abseiling down castles, coast steering, a cross country ski marathon in the Arctic Circle, a wing walk and training in an Environmental Cold Chamber at the University of Sussex at minus 20!

I have just come back from running a 1/2 marathon in Greenland - the biggest and most extreme event I have ever taken part in. This Arctic adventure has definitely left me with a fire in soul for more adventures.

This year I am off trekking in Peru, visiting the Amazon Rainforest, hiking around the Isle of Wight and organising a mega sea swim for over 500 "mermaids" to celebrate International Women's Day.

When I am not on an adventure I am working with my beautiful VW Camper Van called Daisy on photo shoots - if you want you or your business to stand out from the crowd then its time to book a branding shoot with Daisy.

See what DaisyVW has been up to

Photo Shoot Dates: Private shoots also available on request

Check out The Big Mermaid Dip for International Women's Day in Brighton - March 11th - Watch out for March 2024 Dates

Happy Adventuring

Nicky Chisholm aka #PinkNicky

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