Tag: Stress

This past Monday, eight of the greatest home run hitters in Major League Baseball took the stage in Cincinnati for the Gillette Home Run Derby. Featuring a new format with a clock and head-to-head competition, this derby had the most action and excitement since its outset. The night made for a great story as Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds—the hometown guy—won the title. In their bracket set-up, a total of seven head-to-head competitions took place, in which the guy who hit second won all but once. While one may argue that the reason for the second batters’ high success rates were due to those batters being higher seeds, we cannot neglect the power that comes with watching your competition.

Now, think about it. In this competition, all you need to win is to just get one more home run than your opponent. If you bat second, you know what number you need to hit in order to advance to the next round. As the four minutes wound down, each of the sluggers knew exactly how many more they had to hit, and therefore knew whether they needed to press or had time to relax and wait for their pitch. As those four minutes passed, the second batters’ stress levels fluctuated much more than the first batters’ did. The first batters were charged with hitting as many pitches as they could, while those who batted second had to hit a specific number to stay in the game.

In economics, this scenario is referred to as the “second-mover advantage,” which means that Company X just entering a market has an upper-hand over those already in the market because Company X has the all-seeing eye. Company X has watched the market develop and knows the strategies of every other company. Therefore, they can tailor their product to one-up every other product already in existence. The same is true in sport—if you know what your competitor has done, you know exactly what you need to do in order to beat them. You can now formulate a strategy with more knowledge than your opponent had. You now have a strategy your opponent didn’t have. You have the upper-hand.

The next time that you’re in a situation where you want to go first to just get it over with, like giving a presentation at school or playing a scrimmage at practice, volunteer to go second instead. That way, you’ll see what you’re up against and can devise the best way to come out on top, just like six of the seven rounds of the 2015 Home Run Derby.

To learn more about the business and economic side of the second-mover advantage, check out this post from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Tomorrow, Disney-Pixar’s newest animated film, Inside Out, officially releases in theaters. Without giving too many plot spoilers… The movie centers on a young girl, Riley, whose mind is controlled by embodiments of five emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. When her family moves from Minneapolis to San Francisco, her emotions try to help her manage all of the changes that have ensued.

I spoke with Premier’s Dr. Allie Wagener earlier this week to talk about how our emotions work and what we can do to manage them while we’re under duress.

Inside Out centers around five emotions, but we don’t operate using just five emotions—how many emotions are there/do we operate on a spectrum of emotions?

Dr. Allie: There is not a limit to how many emotions a person can experience. It’s pretty amazing being a human being that we get to feel an abundance of emotions that range from joy to excitement, fear, love, worry, jealousy, and disappointment to name a few. Emotions are often transient, and we may experience hundreds of emotions throughout our day—some lasting longer or impacting us more severely than others.

How do our emotions play a role in how we function? (In the movie, it seems as if the emotions control how Riley acts in everyday situations, but our emotions don’t control us, do they?)

Dr. Allie: It is easy to fall into the trap that emotions do control us because they can feel so powerful. However, we are the ones in control of what we do, what we say, and how we react. We may not be able to control what we feel or experience emotionally, but we do have control over how we respond to those emotions. For example, an athlete may strike out while batting and experience disappointment or sadness. Both are two emotions that are natural to feel after striking out. The athlete does not have control over how he feels about his at-bat, but he does have control about how he reacts as he walks back to the dugout. He can exhibit actions associated with those negative feelings (i.e. hangs his head, throws his helmet on the ground, or says out loud “I am terrible.”) or he can walk back to the dugout in a positive way (i.e. head held high, high-fiving his teammate who is on deck, saying out loud “I got it next time”).

Our emotions don’t control us, and we can’t control our emotions either – but how do we best manage them? Do you have any advice on how to, for example, calm yourself in a stressful situation?

Dr. Allie: Being mindful and aware of our inner experience (emotions, sensations, thoughts) and allowing room to experience those emotions without judgment can enhance our abilities to be kind to ourselves and respond in a favorable way that is consistent with what is important to us. Learning what triggers you to react in unhealthy ways is key. Monitoring yourself throughout the day to gauge where you are at emotionally can help inform you when you need a break or give you cues that talking to a teammate or engaging in a relaxation exercise may be a good idea. Mini mental check-ins can be easily placed in throughout your day to help keep you in tune, both mind and body.

Any sort of change presents its challenges—Riley’s main change is her move from Minneapolis to San Francisco—what are some techniques that we can do to help us respond to change most healthfully?

Dr. Allie: Change can be difficult but maintaining a positive perspective and finding the value in the change can be useful. Hearing different points of view can also help ground you. Finding a routine or some consistency within your day or life can help you feel more at ease. Also allowing some flexibility within that time period of change to be free flowing would be helpful. Change can mean growth, even if it is painful at times—it is through pain that we often find our values and what is important to us. Connect with those things that are important to you during this time period.

Inside Out premiers in theaters tonight. It looks like a great movie—especially since it centers on what goes on inside our minds. Be sure to check it out—we know we will!


We all know the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But have you heard “lowering stress levels keeps injuries at bay”? Of course this isn’t a commonly heard phrase. Still, three decades of research “shows that a combination of conditions puts athletes at a greater risk of injury: negative life stresses, an increase in daily hassles, previous injuries, and poor coping responses,” says The Sport Psych Handbook (edited by Shane Murphy).

Stress, inadequate coping skills, and personality traits doesn’t just make for a bad mood; these factors create an elevated stress response. What does this mean for a player? Athletes who have elevated stress responses suffer from more muscle tension, are more easily distracted, and a have smaller attention span, meaning you might not notice you are not holding your body in the proper form as you take that jump shot on the basketball court. Being under stress for long periods of time actually changes your “body’s endocrine system, making a person more susceptible to illness and slowing down the healing process,” says The Sport Psych Handbook.

We all know stress in unavoidable, but how do we manage life stresses and lower our injury risk? We need to learn coping skills to deal with stress. And, when life hits us with a big stressor — such as death of a loved one, a move across country, or the end of an important personal relationship —seeking professional help is a good idea if our coping skills are not up to speed. A sport psychologist can both teach you every day coping skills and help you deal with a big life loss. Taking deliberate steps to try and reduce stress can help lower the chance of incurring more stress through suffering an injury.