Thursday, February 28, 2013

Conquer competition anxiety and harness it for success

Everyone of us has experienced anxiety at one point in our lives, sweaty palms, 'butterflies' in your stomach, your heart starts to pound and you think "I can't do this." Anxiety in athletes usually occurs during high stress moments, competitions, performance evaluations, and fears of re-injury. The good news is there are many ways in which an athlete can take these feelings and use them to their
advantage. The first step is knowing what you're dealing with:

Somatic Anxiety - When a person feels anxious, they will experience physical changes in their bodies triggered by the adrenaline that is produced to meet a 'fight or flight' response. Symptoms include: changes in respiration and heart rate, difficulty breathing, increased muscle tension, dizziness, and stomach upset.

Cognitive Anxiety - As the title suggests, cognitive anxiety is the way an athlete typically thinks about themselves, others and the world. It is not the situation they find ourselves in, it is how they perceive it. This type of anxiety typically involves thoughts of self-doubt, worry, fear and threat. Common negative thoughts begin with, "I can't, or I won't."

Here are some strategies to try before and during competition:
  • Follow a routine - Athletes and coaches can work together to find a set of flexible routines they can implement that address specific situations. 'Going through the motions' can have a relaxing effect on the brain, it will recognize that you have done this before and can do it again. 
  • Identify negative thoughts - and challenge them before they become deeply embedded into your psyche.
  • Practice positive self-talk - Use constructive thought patterns by telling yourself that the sensations you feel indicate that you're excited and engaged about the upcoming competition.
  • Set realistic goals - If performance goals are too ambitious, you're bound to panic and burn out. Use visualization techniques to imagine situations in which you are challenged in an event, and then imagine overcoming these challenges.
  • Anxiety can provide motivation - Focus on your preparedness; this is a psychological assurance that an athlete is arriving at the competition well trained, nourished and rested.
Preparation and practice is key in fighting those competition day jitters so that an athlete can take those feelings as a signal that challenges them to tackle the task at hand.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Beattie S, Hardy L, Woodman T. Precompetition Self-Confidence: The Role of the Self. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. September 2004;26(3):427-441.
2. Englert C, Bertrams A. Anxiety, Ego Depletion, and Sports Performance. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. October 2012;34(5):580-599.  
3. Fox A. FEAR OF FAILURE IN THE CONTEXT OF COMPETITIVE SPORT. Soccer Journal. November 2008;53(7):24-28.
4. Oudejans R, Kuijpers W, Kooijman C, Bakker F. Thoughts and attention of athletes under pressure: skill-focus or performance worries?. Anxiety, Stress & Coping. January 2011;24(1):59-73.
5. Peden A. How anxiety affects tennis performance. Coaching & Sport Science Review (Spanish Version). December 2010;18(52):9-11.
6. Rebel R, Competition and anxiety and elite athletes debilitative or facilitative?. HP SIRCuit. Winter 2013;1(1):16-18. 
7. Skinner N, Brewer N. Adaptive Approaches to Competition: Challenge Appraisals and Positive Emotion. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. June 2004;26(2):283-305.
8. Surgent F. How to Limit, and Even Use, Your Anxiety During a Race. Running & Fitnews . June 2007;25(4):2-4.

1 comment:

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