The control of stress in sports

Most of professional athletes have experienced unpleasant situations which have caused a decrease in performance. One of the most common sensations is stress or anxiety during the competitive period. It is very important to know how to control and manage these sensations to reach sportive goals.

How stress and anxiety influence in sports competition?

When we talk about anxiety we refer to that psychological state of emotional imbalance which is provoked in someone by an uncertain situation. In the sports field, this situation usually happens when the sportsman makes a conscious or unconscious assessment of the situation. Those athletes who think there is a big difference between what the sportive environment requires of them and what can they perform can end up having a negative perception of efficiency regarding to the situation, so they begin to feel stress and consequently, anxiety.

This phenomenon is very common in high competition, many have suffered high levels of anxiety during their sportive career causing decrease of performance. This is one of the main reasons why its is very important to have a professional psychologist in the staff of team. This specialist will be very helpful to reduce anxiety and optimize the qualities of of the athlete.

Stress and anxiety can produce both psychological and physiological symptoms, some of them are the following ones:

Physiological Symptoms

  • Increase of blood pressure
  • Increase of breathing rythm
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Sweating increase
  • Increase of glucose in blood and adrenaline secretion
  • Physical discomfort in stomach, dryness feeling

Psychological Symptoms

  • Decrease of mind flexibility
  • Confusion
  • Visual distortion
  • Hesitation in decision taking
  • Increase of negative thoughts
  • Less ability to focus in field

These reactions can be caused by real situations of game or features around game. However, it has been proven that most of the  time is the own interpretation of situation of the sportsman which causes these sensations.

How can we fight sports stress?

According to specialists to get relaxed we can follow two strategies that can help us to reach the same effect: going from the mind to the muscles or going from the muscles to the mind. There are main relaxing tecniques to fight stress, in example:

  • Progressive relaxation of Jacobson: it is a muscular relaxation technique based in stretching systematically different groups of muscles and learning how to assist and discriminate sensations resulting from tension and relaxation. Any of us can almost eliminate muscle contractions and experience a deep relax sensation.
  • Breath Control: Have a balance between mind and body through breath control is a very popular technique to fight stress and anxiety and recover a status of harmony. Meditation, yoga and other traditional techniques of relaxation have their baseline  around breath.
  • Mindfulness Techniques: We could describe them as a group of exercises or even as a way of life which looks for the connexion with oneself, reinforces the personal strengths that help to be in control of behaviour and know oneself better, creating also a comfortable environment.

So consequently, the improvement of the relation between mind and body and also having an emotional balance during competition, guarantees the implementation of all the skills of the athlete during the competition.