“Its ok to have butterflies, just get them flying in formation” – Francisco Lopez
Self-regulation is a skill which is very prevalent in individual sports such as Golf or Tennis. Think of the last time you felt nervous or uncomfortable in a sporting scenario. What was your reaction; increased heart rate, sweaty palms, confused or dry-mouthed?
Are these negative responses?
They are neither negative nor positive! This bodily reaction is an instinctive evolutionary response to a stressor, the big influence is our perception. Ever since we were little, we’ve been brought up to see stress as a negative response. Changing the way stress is perceived, it will help influence our physiological responses.
Lets start viewing stress as a challenge rather then an enemy and you will see the benefits with your performance.
Dealing with stress… Easy as ABC
It’s never as easy as ABC, but its a good way to remember it. Self-regulation is a technique which we use with individuals in stressful situations to diminish the effects of stress.
Relax, this is very important to understand. Normally when the stressful situation occurs it sends the individual into a state of panic. STOP! Take a step back and THINK about what you are doing. Is panicking going to be helpful for my performance? If required abandon your original thoughts and be open to change.
Breathe, there is a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) which is a very effective process. Slowly working through regions of muscle tensing and relaxing in a sequential manner. “Centering” is also an effective technique as this promotes self-awareness of the stressful situation. Taken from the Japanese Martial Art of “Spiritual Harmony” (Aikido). It essentially manages your thoughts to become more positive and in the here and now.
Within life, not just sports. The stressful situation can happen hours, weeks or even months before the event or game. The mere thought of the event can initiate a stress response. If this is the case, it’s time to activate our coping strategies. A big part of the strategy is believing it will have a positive effect on our performance. Believe in the process.
Imagery is a widely researched and published area within sports psychology. There is a reason for this, if used correctly imagery is an effective tool. Coping imagery involves creating an imagery script, whereby they visualise themselves within the stressful situation. Allowing them to develop a variety of solutions and methods of dealing with the issue in an artificial setting. Within any imagery script its important to be specific in every element to make it as realistic as possible. (Sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch etc.)
Music is another effective method; I’m forever watching super Sunday on sky sports and seeing footballers stepping off the team coach with their headphones on. Music is a good way of diverting attention away from the stressful situation, therefore create yourself a psych up playlist. My recommendation is Fort Minor ‘remember the name’.
Finally, the hardest: attempting to change the thought of stress from negative to positive, (Aka reappraisal). I remember my lecturer telling me about this study from Jamieson and Im not kidding something just clicked. Jamieson conducted a study using Harvard undergraduates taking examinations. Teaching students to see their stress response as positive. As a sign that their body is preparing them for action. Thus, the students exhibited only positive physiological responses outlining the importance of perception. It’s your belief about stress which initiates the response whether it positive or negative.
THINK ABOUT THIS.
Next time you’re in a stressful situation, I like to use this statement below
“Your body is trying to help you, not trip you up”
Remember, it’s never as easy as ABC, though it’s a good way to think about it.