Overcoming anxiety in sport
Within the field of sport, performers are put under an immense amount of stress. Different athletes react in different ways, pushing them on to strive to their goals or can leave them over anxious and underperforming. In this blog we will be look at different ways to overcome anxiety within different sports activities.
Firstly, to be able to treat and maintain anxiety levels, the practitioner needs to be able to spot the signs. These signs can be broken down into two separate categories, somatic and cognitive. Somatic signs are things that you as the practitioner can visually see the athlete going through, for example, fast breathing, sweating or nausea/vomiting. Cognitive signs are harder to see as they are in the individuals mind, for example, Negative self-talk and over thinking. This will result in the individual visually looking stressed and over nervous before and during training or competing.
The first method an individual could use to overcome excessive anxiety levels is relaxation training. There are numerous routines and types of training that help the body relax, including yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and Pilates. These methods help you to learn techniques to improve and slow down your breathing as well as how to let go of negative thoughts and focus on being in the moment, which is key for enhanced performance.
Another method that could be used is thought stopping, this is the process of stopping a negative thought in its tracks and replacing it with a positive one. Anxiety is how it is perceived. If anxiety is viewed as negative, it’s likely to trigger a flight or fight response or cause a person to freeze, which can adversely impact performance in high stress situations, this method effects how the athlete perceives their anxiety. For example, if the individual was competing against an opponent that had beaten them before and was experiencing anxiety about the result repeating itself again. The individual could use this method to avoid overthinking about negative thoughts and replace it with a drive to beat their opponent.
One other method the individual could use is a method called labeling. Labeling the process of getting the athlete to recognize certain thoughts and feelings, so those negative ones can be associated with a positive outcome. A common symptom of competition anxiety is an increased heart rate, so when this occurs, the athlete can label it as their body getting ready for the competition rather than being in an anxious state.
The final method we are going to look at is appropriate preparation going into a competition. Proper preparation can allow the individual to feel ready and confident when competing, this avoids the overwhelming feeling that they may fail. As the practitioner, to avoid your athlete becoming over anxious resulting in performance drop, you need to be able to prepare the athlete in every aspect so that they feel ready and confident before competing (https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/5-Tips-for-Overcoming-Sports-Performance-Anxiety)
These are a few ways that could be used to monitor, lower and utilize athlete’s anxiety levels to benefit performance levels.