Ever hear of stage fright? Some of us discover at some point in life that we suffer from it, and it can be pretty debilitating! Picture this: A college freshman is taking a speech class, which mainly consists of giving public presentations. While not unnerving to some, this prospect is terrifying for others.
Upon giving his first speech, the student’s terror was soon on full display to a classroom full of his peers. He stumbled through his intro, his hands began to shake, his brow beaded with sweat and all words ceased. He froze. As he somehow managed to finish, he looked up to see the entire class staring directly at him in silence. He was mortified.
The saving grace was the professor. She was, fortunately, very experienced in the art of stage fright management. Seeing the student was borderline inconsolable following his disastrous first attempt at public speaking, she enlightened him with the most helpful piece of advice he had ever received: “Diaphragmatic breathing will change your life.”
“Diaphragmaaa… what?” he asked. She said that diaphragmatic breathing is a simple technique that consists of contracting your diaphragm (a muscle located just below your chest) while you breath. This relatively simple breathing technique involves inhaling through your nose into your stomach rather than chest. (You can get detailed instructions here if you’re interested in more about diaphragmatic breathing.)
So, what does this have to do with hunting?
This professor’s sage wisdom isn’t limited to combating stage fright. After all, how many people actually give public speeches in a given day? Stage fright is essentially an influx of anxiety and stress hormones, and if this process works to alleviate the public speaking stress, it stands to reason that the same process would work with common anxiety and tension you experience right before you pull that trigger on a big buck.
You see, diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which automatically slows your cardiovascular system and relaxes your muscles. In doing so, it stimulates internal organ blood flow and allows more oxygen to circulate through your body. The increase in oxygen and blood flow all but guarantee that you’ll become more relaxed, and subsequently (and perhaps more importantly), you will be steadier.
So, the next time you’re starring down that long-sought game, take a few deep breaths and see how much straighter you shoot. Unlike most mental tricks or even exercise routines designed to alleviate anxiety, this technique is almost too easy to mess up.