How to halt a meltdown under pressure, dead in its tracks . . .

Tame the gatekeeper!

Sabine Lisicki had played brilliant tennis for two weeks and was ready for her finest moment. On the way to the final her big serve and ferocious forehand had seen off the likes of Serena Williams, she was in the form of her life, super fit and ready to claim one of tennis’s greatest prize – the Wimbledon title!

How cruel as she steps onto the court, the one thing she seemingly is unable to control takes a fatal grip on her emotions. With her muscles tense and tight, Sabine’s timing, touch and confidence now a distant memory, her dream turned into a living nightmare.


Fear has done its work, unable to swing freely with her body and mind overheating and in front of millions sharing her pain, another talented athlete experiences the trauma of an emotional meltdown under the pressure of a great opportunity.

Sabine after 30 minutes on court to took a ‘toilet break’, she of course was taking advantage of an opportunity to gather herself and try and release the stress from her body. The problem is when your nervous system is paralysed with fear conventional ways of dealing with stress ‘positive thinking, deep breathing, visualisation, stretching etc, often are of little help.

There are unfortunately many examples of sports men and women literally crumbling in major tournaments: In tennis Jana Navotona and Tod Martin,  golf Jean Van de Velde, Rory Mcllroy and Greg Norman. What do they all have in common? A healthy bank balance, the best support network money can buy and inability to deal with the destructive power of public enemy number one for an elite performer . . . FEAR and its affect on our nervous system!

The gatekeeper

How does the gatekeeper fit in with this tale?

If we take a look at what happens in the body when fear strikes. I don’t profess to be an expert in human biology, although I did manage to stay awake for some of my science lessons in school, perhaps that was because any signs of not paying attention and the teacher would throw the board duster at your head- the good old days!

Anyway, please stay with me. There is a part of the brain called the amygdale, it is constantly on the alert for danger (the gatekeeper). When it senses a threat, it sends a message to the prefrontal cortex the creative, problem solving part of our brain triggering the bodies fight or flight response. Which is helpful if you are being chased by a buffalo or maybe trying to get out of the way of a board duster! This however is not great if this is the finest moment of your life and your body is shutting down.

Over the years I have helped many people who when faced with a great opportunity have been overcome with nerves. For example:

  • A young woman taking her driving test for the 9th time and needed to pass to get work
  • A talented musician, desperate to play her best in an audition to secure a place in an orchestra
  • A pupil taking her ‘A’ levels who regularly suffered panic attacks and needed certain grades to get accepted by her      first choice University
  • A talented basketball player who flew to America with a chance of a scholarship and has one game to prove himself

The situations may seem worlds apart. How can you compare the stress involved for a player in a Wimbledon final, to the young lady who is about to take her test for the 9th time . . .? Easy, ask the lady taking the test, how well she slept the night before.

From what I understand, when people are overwhelmed, the mind is not selective. The self sabotaging thoughts that come from the subconscious don’t really care whether you are about to become the most famous tennis player on the planet, picking up a cheque for well over a million pounds. Or, whether you are about to enter a dowdy, gruby old building about to take your driving test for the 9th time. The warning signals just get fired out, the gatekeeper is spooked and all is lost!

The Lone Ranger

As I was growing up he always turned up to save the day!

The great news is today’s equivalent of the Lone Ranger for those that get gripped with fear is  EFT, by tapping on the body’s acupressure points when stressed sends calming messages to the brain, helps the body relax, with the mind and body in balance the meltdown will be stopped dead in its tracks.

When Lisicki, took her break after the disastrous first set, I could have helped her regain her composure and give herself a chance to take her place in the tennis hall of fame. Wimbledon prize money £1.6m, my fee . . . £40, (probably the cost of a few bails of hay for The Long Rangers horse Silver).

My real skill is I can help retrain the gate keeper to become less of a scaredy cat and only send out the stress signs when you are in real danger!

What do you think, do you believe it’s possible for a simple technique to be used to release stress from the body? Have you experienced a meltdown and would like to know more about how I can help? Just leave a comment or contact me at for a free initial consultation.






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