There’s no doubt that in today’s high-pressure, hurried society, you need management techniques to cope with everyday stressors as well as those special occasions when the boss really gets under your skin. While a lot of people turn to meditation or stress toys to help them cope, the therapeutic benefits of a little time at the target range are too often overlooked.
Target shooting can be a release in itself. At times, simply feeling the power of recoil from the pistol in your hands, or the rifle against your shoulder can be a uniquely grounding experience. Likewise, to experience that moment of total control when you send bullet to target can be cathartic. Yes, simply the act of shooting can seem to set the world right again when stress has you feeling like you’re at the mercy of the tides.
If you take target practice a bit more seriously, you will find that many of the techniques that you use to master your shot also quiet your mind and body when life’s challenges start to pour on the pressure. While improving your aim with gear is an option, you won’t get very far if you don’t control your mind and body first.
Okay, it sounds a little new-agey put that way, but every shooter knows that when he’s thinking of other things, those distractions show on the target. Sloppy groups and all out random flyers aren’t always the fault of your ammunition. If you’re going to shoot well, your mind needs to be there at the range and you have to let the rest of it go. Other people meditate on a flower or repeat a mantra, we push it all out and concentrate on the target. In the end, when you clear your mind and focus on the shot, you’re practicing a type of focused mindfulness that clears away all the extra-curricular garbage from the outside world and can help manage your stress levels once you leave the range.
Control Your Breathing
You can’t shoot a reliable group if the rise and fall of each breath rocks your body unpredictably. Controlled breathing has long been taught as a component of marksmanship. While there are different schools of thought as to when to fire during a breath, as well as opinions about holding breath, breathing patterns and cautionary tales of shooters passing out on the competition range, everyone agrees that you can’t shoot if you’re pulling the trigger at random points in an erratic breathing cycle. Calm controlled breathing is a necessary component of accurate shooting.
When you master your breath, you’re taking control of how your body functions despite outside influences. That’s a big factor in how you handle stress. You can slow down and take control, or you can react. Take that deep cleansing breath before shooting the next round. Calm your breathing and use the stillness of your natural respiratory pause to steady both your shot and your nerves. You’ll walk off the range with a tighter group and leave anxiety behind too.
Picture the Perfect Shot
While other people “go to a happy place,” you picture covering your next group with a dime. It’s a simple technique that clears the mental boogeymen and sets us up for success.
Visualizing positive outcomes is something athletes did long before life coaching became “a thing.” A basketball player pictures the ball swooshing through the hoop. A baseball player sees a ball soaring over the fence. As a shooter, you feel the trigger against your finger, the stock tight against your shoulder,and you picture your next shot leaving the bore, traveling a true line to the target.
Next time you find yourself with clenched fists and sore jaw muscles from biting back those things you’d like to tell the boss, grab your range bag and go. Come home with a bag of empties, a filled target and a better attitude.