“Pressure is a privilege,” Bille Jean King says. It’s also an inescapable fact of every tennis player’s life. With the recent advent of the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR), that pressure has only been ratcheted up for rec players. Now that we have a specific number attached to our names, we know exactly who we shouldn’t lose to.

How can we alleviate some of that stress? Even better, how can we use it to our advantage?

This week, our 5-step plan outlines how to take the pressure off yourself—and put it on your opponent.

Focus on embracing anxiety as a sign of personal engagement.

Focus on embracing anxiety as a sign of personal engagement.

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STEP 1: Get a New Perspective On Pressure

One initial problem that most of us have with anxiety is that we see it as a sign of weakness. We like to imagine that the world’s best players walk on court with a serene self-belief. They don’t. What the pros understand is that confidence isn’t a permanent state of being. It’s the product of a step-by-step process that they must constantly repeat. The pressure you feel before a match is an essential part of that process.

“For every person there’s an optimal level of anxiety,” says Alexandra Guhde, a clinical psychologist who has worked with tennis players. “When I’m with a player, we focus on embracing anxiety as a sign of personal engagement. Anxiety shows a player is invested, and getting comfortable in that uncomfortable place is key to preventing anxiety from turning into panic.”

Rather than thinking of your nerves as evidence of your vulnerability, think of them as a sign that you’re moving towards your goal. Nerves show you care, and caring about winning is the first step to making it happen.