How To Deal With Pressure, Stress and Anxiety – Insights from Sports Psychologist Fiona Shaw

How do you overcome anxiety or depression?

How do you get yourself into a positive state of mind to be on the top of your game?

It doesn’t matter how much talent or skill you have, if you’re unable to deal with pressure and execute then you’re unlikely to experience the kind of success you’re after.

Sports psychologist Fiona Shaw from  talks to about some of the psychological problems many of us face in sport, and also our daily lives.

Whether you’re a pro athlete looking to be at your mental best for an event, an amateur sport enthusiast, or anyone experiencing anxiety problems in your personal or professional life, a sports psychologist like Fiona could make a huge difference to your life.

What inspired you to become a sports psychologist?

I’ve always had an interest in psychology and completed a Bsc Hons in Forensic Psychology, however my interest and passion always came from sports and athletes.

My passion is following triathlon and Ironman particularly. My husband is an Ironman and so my lifestyle is always surrounded by sports in some way shape or form.  I have exposure to a lot of athletes of all calibres and abilities and enjoy this contact with so many different people.

I myself enjoy running and keeping fit. I know how stressful it can be on race day and how pressure feels and so use my psychology background, expertise, experience and knowledge to help others.

I always enjoy and thrive on seeing people achieve and do well so this was an obvious career choice for me.

What kind of issues/problems do people come to you with?

One of the main issues I find time and time again is lack of self belief. Often athletes, although they enter races and have the confidence to do so, still carry some element of emotional baggage with them which holds them back.

Often this has been caused by incidents or lack of support through childhood years and this is sadly carried with them into adult life. We work together to unravel everything and by working backwards we can move forward and it’s letting this emotional baggage go which enables them to move on in a confident manner and with purpose.

Who do you work with?

I work with many athletes, pro and non pro. The range of abilities makes no difference to me.

At the end of the day every single person who works with me has a goal and a dream and it’s part of my job to enable them to find the best way to achieve this. A pro is racing the same race as a non pro and the effort is all relevant to each individual.

One persons race is no more important than another’s just because one is faster than the other.

We all have to start somewhere and work towards our goals to see what we can achieve. We are all athletes.

What effect does a persons home and work life have on their performance in sport?

A persons home and work life can have a big bearing on their performance. I always call Ironman the selfish sport because in some ways you have to often be selfish to carry out the necessary training to get you to the finish line of a race.

It’s a very consuming sport and unforgiving so home life and work life need to allow for this large volume of training. People can adapt well if they have an understanding, patient, supportive or helpful family or a job which allows them the time and freedom to train however this is not always possible for some people.

We find ways to make a situation work for each individuals own needs, to ensure what they are able to do is productive and rewarding.

What services do you provide at

I provide support and advice on how to manage life and work with regard to training, racing and general fitness. I am your go to person and provide a unique 121 service.

My services are bespoke to each client, tailored to them and for them. I am your personal therapist to work through any issues, problems, emotional baggage and inner demons.

Think of me as a cleanser if you like, helping you to move forward and closer to your goals! My services are an enhancement to your training and beneficial to helping athletes achieve their goals and ambitions.

How important is a persons mentality and state of mind when approaching a goal?

It’s very important, it goes without saying. Someone full of negativity on a start line can allow nerves and emotions to ruin their race. We work on ways to eliminate this issue or to find ways to keep these problems under control and depending on the individual we may even use them in a positive way and as a fuel to fire the belly.

A strong mind will result in a strong race and that is all one can ever hope for.

What advice do you have for anyone suffering from anxiety or lack of focus?

Anxiety is a terrible feeling to experience and especially when it becomes out of control. It’s so overwhelming and I often use imagery work to desensitise their heightened senses.

To picture situations and scenarios over and over in the mind helps to aid this and so the anxiety becomes less. This brings to my athletes a strong focus and some clarity and is good in calming someone down.

This routine then becomes normal to someone and they can then picture these scenes we have worked on and this classic conditioning of the mind works really well for many athletes.

In your experience, are there any patterns or main causes of depression or anxiety?

There are many causes of depression and anxiety. Work life and home life are just two contributory factors but there are so many things that can also be a factor.

As I mentioned before, although my work is largely focused on working with an athlete in the here and now often it is important to work backwards and I do spend time with them to unravel their life story to uncover underlying issues or emotional baggage they may be carrying with them.

Through this process I can really understand the inner workings of someone and why these issues or factors arise. We work together to find ways to let that go, so they can move on, move forward and feel free.

Depression is so hard for anyone to cope with and I always remind any athletes who have suffered from this that their exposure to fitness and exercise is positive in itself. It helps so much to release tension and the feelings from exercise are always beneficial.

What effect does exercise and physical health have on a persons mental health?

Exercise has a positive effect on a persons mental health. The fact that they have decided to take up any form of exercise means they care about themselves or their body. To do something rather than nothing is the first step for many. It’s keeping it going which counts.

To constantly push the body and find new limits or challenges is great for mental health. Pushing boundaries and stepping out of the comfort zone is great for the mind and being in control. A positive mind has no limits.

Where can people find you?

People can view my website at :

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Below – Fiona pictured with triathlete Jonny Brownlee