It has been awhile since I've written anything, silly posts on Smashboards notwithstanding.
I've become a bit better at Melee recently. Some of it comes from trying to be a better teacher regarding the game. It's hard to write or teach something you don't understand, and the process of helping somebody improve forces me to refine my own ideas more, and become more aware as a result.
A lot of it, however, has come down to a simple difference that helps me in tournaments and friendlies. If I start freaking out, or getting frustrated, or getting discouraged, I start breathing. Deep breaths, in and out.
I can't recall the source exactly, but I read something that said "if you want to control anything, you must learn to control yourself." And the first thing that you can control regarding your body and your mind is your breathing. Every martial art and meditative practice that focuses on self-control as the ultimate goal begins with breathing.
There's a pretty good reason. Deep breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain. It slows your heart rate and decreases nervousness. It increases your ability to concentrate. It gives you a moment to step outside of the situation and look at it like a spectator would--as most of us know, it's often easy to see the right solution to a problem provided it's not our problem.
So I started trying that, and I've found it's incredibly helpful. It hardly makes me invincible, but it's giving me a power that I haven't really had before; when I get tilted off balance during a set or a match, I can regain my composure. I make more comebacks. I stay stable even when behind and find ways to take back lost ground.
Repeated, very simply: to control your environment requires self-control, and self-control begins with breathing.
Give it a shot. Inhale through the nose, feel the air expand inside your lungs and diaphragm, then slowly exhale through your mouth. Wait a second, then breathe in again. Feel your heartrate slow down a bit, feel your thoughts come in slowly and more clearly. Then go do whatever it was you were planning on doing today.
That's all. Peace.