Tag: Anxiety

Food for Thought — Emotions at the MLB Trade Deadline

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

At 3:00pm CST today, many MLB players will exhale a sigh of relief. The July trade deadline will have passed, and players won’t be worrying if they’ll be sleeping in a different city tonight. For fans, trades are exciting—many of us become glued to Twitter and MLB Trade Rumors tracking the numerous transactions. We want to see who is going to make the biggest push for October. As Rays’ pitcher Chris Archer recently tweeted, “If anyone wants to know what it looks like to be all in, check out the Jays.” (Toronto has been just one of many teams moving players around the league.) For players, trades bring anxiety. While the quick trades are fun to follow, we sometimes lose perspective that trades quickly uproot players’ lives.

Now, trading is a part of the game and makes for late summer runs for a few teams, but with the ever-expanding platforms of social media, players are affected by rumors more and more often. Take the Mets’ Wilmer Flores, who thought he was being traded when he received an overwhelming round of applause as he stepped up to the plate in the seventh inning. With many news outlets, including the New York Times, reporting that high-ranking team executives were leaking a trade of Flores to the Brewers, word spread like wild fire around Citi Field. Flores, now 23, was drafted by the Mets on his 16th birthday and had been with them ever since. He was visibly upset on the field, wiping away tears on his sleeve as he took the field in the top of the eighth. After the game when Flores was addressing the media, he said he was upset because he would have had to leave his teammates and the only organization he has ever known.

Once players are traded, they have to move their families, find new homes, and start anew in a different city. While all teams have personnel to help make the transition as smooth as possible for players, it’s still an emotional process that could always use more assistance. Players move the minute they’re traded and go play for another team; their families are the ones who have to deal with the stress of moving or not moving (which can leave months of being away from husbands/fathers). While trades have been and will be apart of sports always, a new method of coping around the trade deadline may be needed.

 

 

What Is The Story Behind Superstitions?

By: Premier Sport Psychology

If you look at any sport team, you will likely find many athletes that incorporate superstitions into their pre-game routines. Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his uniform in every game of his professional career, insisting that they brought him luck. As a five-time MVP and six-time NBA Champion, it seems there may have been some method to his madness. Crossing borders onto the ice rink, Patrick Roy, one of the best goalies in NHL history, would skate backward toward his net and turn around at the last minute before every game. He believed this would “shrink the net”. (If that’s not interesting enough, he would talk to his goal posts and thank them when the puck would ring off them!) New York Mets reliever Turk Wendell would brush his teeth in between every inning and requested a contract of $9,999,999.99 to compliment his uniform number 99. So what is the real story behind superstitions? Why do they develop? And the biggest question: do they help?

How do Superstitions Start?

Superstitions are generally developed in retrospect when athletes begin to correlate performance with unrelated events/actions during the day. When an athlete performs particularly well (or conversely, when they perform poorly) they may look back at their day and point to specific events that could have caused the outlier performance. This can be anything from a song they heard to the type of undergarments they were wearing. It is not unusual to see superstitions that involve something with little, if any, connection to performance. Things like a haircut or shaving ones legs become carefully planned out to either “help” or avoid “hurting” performance. When athletes create this “cause and effect” between events and performance they chalk up their best performances to the events preceding the competition, and try to recreate it before competition. And you guessed it; they avoid any events that happened before terrible performances.

The Downfalls of Superstitions

While many superstitions are harmless, getting too consumed by them may cause problems in preparing. When developed superstitions begin to become all-consuming and athletes “need” them to be mentally prepared it can become stressful and produce fear and anxiety. An athlete may forget to recreate the superstition or not get to it before competition and lead themselves to believe that the way they perform is then out of their control. Giving power to these events/things can be very dangerous. Severe obsessions with superstitions can start to look like OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and can mentally block an athlete’s ability to perform, when in reality the superstition cannot change the outcome of competition. The way an athlete prepares, and later performs, is almost entirely in their control. Outside factors such as weather and time delays may present challenges, but it is the athlete themselves who can work through that adversity and push themselves to reach optimal perform.

The Benefits of Superstitions

When superstitions are simply habits, quirks, or pregame routines they can actually be beneficial for some athletes. Having small things that are incorporated into preparation for competition can give an athlete a sense of control and confidence. Superstitions such as eating a good meal before a game, warming up the same, or listening to a favorite song can get your mind focused and remind your body that you are preparing for competition. You may have heard the phrase that humans are “creatures of habit” and as long as the habits are healthy, who is to say they won’t help you perform better? In fact, psychology has shown over and over that if you believe a specific action or behavior will help you perform better, then you probably will perform better! This is commonly known as the placebo effect. Sport psychology encourages the use of mental preparation strategies such as visualization and imagery to help athletes prepare mentally for competition. NFL quarterback Russell Wilson uses these techniques along with mindfulness to bring his game to the next level. Zack Parise of the Minnesota Wild uses visualization before every NHL game. By imagining yourself in a high competition setting, and performing successfully, you are preparing not only your mind for competition, but your body as well.

So can superstitions really be lucky? Depending on the type of superstition and dependence on it, it seems that things that stimulate mental preparation can increase performance. Outside of that… never washing your lucky socks cannot make or break your performance, unless you believe it can. It certainly will however make for a smelly locker. You need to step back and assess what meaning the superstition has in connection with your performance. And if that meaning can propel you to the top of your game then by all means use it to your advantage. Just remember that Louis Pasteur once said “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” So prepare properly, and you will get predictable performance. Strong mental preparation will provide you the luck you are searching for.

Bethany Brausen

Feeling Anxious? Lucky You.

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

You are feeling anxious? Lucky you.

I am going to get on my soapbox for a couple minutes here. I think everybody can thrive from anxiety. However, the feelings of anxiety often make us uncomfortable. The root of this anxiety is because neither you, nor I, really know how to use our anxiety. Because here is the thing, anxiety could just be one of the most powerful innate skills we as humans possess, and instead of running with it, we run from it. If you look up the definition of anxiety this is what you will find:

“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

Then scroll down and take a peek at the synonyms: worry, concern, apprehension, apprehensiveness, uneasiness, unease, fearfulness, fear, disquiet, agitation, angst, misgiving, nervousness, nerves, tension, and tenseness.

Well I think, while I am up here on my soapbox, I would like to pick a fight. I would like to pick a fight with the idea that anxiety is a negative thing. I would argue that anxiety is indeed a positive thing. I’ll use with another word, excited. The definition of excited reads: stirred emotionally, agitated, stimulated to activity, aroused, to cause; awaken. Now I may be the only one, but I have experienced both these feelings and have come to realize that the feelings can overlap a great deal. Are you going on a first date? How do you feel–anxious or excited? Are you buckling your seat on a roller coaster? Is that feeling anxiousness or excitement? Competing in a game? I ask you the same question. Are these feelings only anxiety or only excitement–often times it seems hard to have one without the other.

An excessive amount of anxiety is not beneficial, I agree. When it creeps its way into places it doesn’t belong, anxiety can cause problems from a physiological standpoint. And that is not going to do anyone any good. But, what if we can channel small amounts of anxiety into positive performance. Even an abundance of anxiety can be transformed into a wealth of energy and excitement. We can change the way our body responds to anxiety if we first change the way we think about it. People do not walk up to a podium in front of 500 people without anxiety. The players in the NHL, NFL, MLB, and NBA have all had their share of this feeling. However, the athletes and people that view anxiety as a strength and a skill for performing are the ones that can reach optimal performance.

If you asked every person if they have experienced this feeling, I would be surprised to hear if even one person had not. It is a natural response developed with our “fight or flight” reflex many years ago. And we still find it prevalent today. The role of anxiety has clearly left a genetic imprint that is crucial to our evolution (and to your success). So before I step down from up here where the view is great, I will ask you to remember one thing. The next time you feel your anxiety kick in, heart racing, sweat going, palms sweaty, and body shaky don’t run from it. Run with it. I am willing to bet you will run much faster with it, then without it.

 

Want to hear more about this topic? Watch this TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal.

Is Performance Anxiety Getting the Best of You? Tip # 3…

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Is performance anxiety getting the best of you? Are you overwhelmed with panic at the thought of competing in front of others? Do your limbs become a bundle of nerves and your stomach a knot of butterflies come game time? We know the feeling. And we’re here to help! In this three-part series, we’re sharing our best tips to help you navigate those meddlesome feelings of self-doubt and fear, and reduce your anxiety when you’re under pressure.

Follow us here on the blog or on Facebook / Twitter for three tips on managing anxiety during the month of April. In case you missed our first two tips, find Tip #1 (Focus on What You Can Control) here and Tip #2 (Embrace Anxiety) here.

Now for the third and final one this month, Tip #3!

Tip #3: When In Fight or Flight Mode, Take a Few Deep Breaths

As humans, our brains are hard-wired to prepare us for unexpected threats or dangers in the surrounding environment. This evolutionary instinct is known as the “fight or flight” response, which dictates your body’s immediate reaction to a perceived threat or stressor. As a result, our brains are constantly scanning our surroundings for these dangers in order to protect us and help us. Thousands of years ago, when a fight or flight response was necessary during, let’s say, an encounter with a predatory animal or a true, serious threat to our survival–not having to wait for the body to prepare to run away or fight the animal was a huge advantage to our species! These days, though, we very rarely encounter true threats to our survival like we might have in ancient times. However, our brains have yet to adjust to twenty-first century living.

Despite the drastically-changed environment we live in now, the brain still relies on the fight or flight response as a survival instinct. Consequently, when the brain perceives a situation as threatening, whether or not it actually is, our automatic emergency response is triggered, leading to a series of physical reactions, such as accelerated heart rate, increased and more shallow breathing, nausea, high blood pressure, sweating, adrenaline and cortisol secretion, tunnel vision, increased muscle tension, and a host of other physical reactions. For instance, if you’re just feeling extra nervous before an important speech in front of a large audience, your brain will likely detect this as a “threat” and engage your fight or flight response automatically. It’s important to understand this reaction when we are anxious because it can help us better manage our nerves.

To help, first recognize your body’s natural response, and then do your best to slow down your breathing and take deep inhales. In doing this, you’re effectively telling your body to turn OFF the fight or flight response, to slow your heart rate and communicate that the perceived “threat” is not actually a life or death situation. That upcoming final exam you’re dreading? The pressure-filled, high-stakes competition coming up? Take a moment to calm your mind and body with deep, slow breathing and tell yourself: “This game is not a threat. I’m going to be ok. Calm down.” Recognizing your body’s response to an immediate stressor or threat can help you react accordingly. Maintaining steady breathing is the most powerful way for you to manage the fight or flight aspect of performance anxiety.

 

 

 

Is Performance Anxiety Getting the Best of You? Tip # 2…

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Is performance anxiety getting the best of you? Are you overwhelmed with panic at the thought of competing in front of others? Do your limbs become a bundle of nerves and your stomach a knot of butterflies come game time? We know the feeling. And we’re here to help! In this three-part series, we’re sharing our best tips to help you navigate those meddlesome feelings of self-doubt and fear, and reduce your anxiety when you’re under pressure.

Follow us here on the blog or on Facebook/Twitter for three tips on managing anxiety during the month of April. In case you missed Tip #1, click here to learn how to focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t. Now for Tip #2!

Tip #2: Embrace Anxiety

As uncomfortable as it can feel, anxiety plays a critical role when it comes to performance—on the field, in the pool, on the track, or on the stage—and different levels of anxiety can both help or hinder that quality performance. Let’s say, for example, you’re minutes away from the starting buzzer of the biggest game of the year. Would you want to feel pumped up for the competition with adrenaline racing, ready to get out there and tackle your opponent? Or feel a more subdued, concentrated sense of calm readiness? Every athlete is different in what they prefer and different sports require different degrees of anxiety or what’s sometimes called “activation.” All types of performances, both sport and non-sport, require varying levels of activation in order to achieve optimal performance. This theory, called the Yerkes-Dodson Law, dictates that performance increases with physiological or mental activation (arousal), but only up to a point. When levels of arousal become too high, performance decreases.1 Different tasks require different levels of arousal for optimal performance. Difficult or intellectually demanding tasks may require a lower level of arousal (to facilitate concentration), whereas tasks demanding stamina or persistence may be performed better with higher levels of arousal (to increase motivation). When activation levels rise too high, feelings of panic and stress can emerge, leading to too much anxiety, poor problem-solving skills and “tunnel vision,” which is not conducive to peak sport performance! On the other hand, in the absence of any anxiety at all, a mellow, low-pressure response does not elicit optimal performance either…an athlete can be too flat. Therefore, some nervousness is helpful and it’s important to embrace those nerves and use them to your advantage. Finding the right amount of anxiety/arousal/activation for you and your sport can be difficult and takes practice. Try deep slow breaths or listening to relaxing music (to decrease activation) or upbeat music (to increase it). Most importantly, embrace anxiety as a natural part of performance and that it can be useful in many situations at the appropriate level!

 

 

Is Performance Anxiety Getting the Best of You? Tip # 1…

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Is performance anxiety getting the best of you? Are you overwhelmed with panic at the thought of competing in front of others? Do your limbs become a bundle of nerves and your stomach a knot of butterflies come game time? We know the feeling. And we’re here to help! In this new three-part series, we’re sharing our best tips to help you navigate those meddlesome feelings of self-doubt and fear, and reduce your anxiety when you’re under pressure.

Follow us here on the blog or on Facebook/Twitter for 3 tips on managing anxiety during the month of April.

Here’s our 1st tip…

Tip #1: Focus On What You Can Control

Imagine you’re standing at the free-throw line, palms sweaty under a blinking scoreboard of 65-65. All eyes on you as the game-winning point rests on your next shot. Feeling anxious? In these situations, more often than not, our brains immediately seize on the “what if’s” of the scenario and zero-in on variables outside our control. This leads to nerves, panic, agitation, stress and tension—ultimately interfering with the quality of your performance.

Next time you find yourself at the free-throw line, or preparing for any high-pressure performance, try this exercise:

Create a list of all the elements about your performance that are within your control. List things like the amount of effort you’ve put into preparing/training, your attitude, mindset and perspective, your skills, etc.

Create a list of all the elements that are out of your control. These might include skill level of the opponent, the weather, quality of the field/facility, decisions of your coaching staff, etc.

CONTROLLABLES:

  1. Your effort
  2. Preparation
  3. Mindset
  4. Attitude
  5. How you manage the uncontrollables!
  6. Time-management
  7. What you focus on

 

UNCONTROLLABLES:

  1. Equipment
  2. Facilities
  3. Skill level of the opponent
  4. Coaching decisions
  5. Order of the line-up

 

Take a moment to focus on what you can control, instead of what you can’t. Doing this will help reduce performance anxiety so that you can kick, pitch, bat, swing, bike, shoot, dive, sing, act, drum, and perform at your best. Next time you feel nervous before a competition, practice shifting your focus to the CONTROLLABLES and letting go of the uncontrollables!