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How athletes can control their nervousness to perform at the optimal performance zone

Athletes who want to control nervousness and anxiety to perform at their best need to be aware of the Arousal-Performance relationship, which has an inverted U-curve shape. At the beginning, when you have low arousal (could be because you are too relaxed or lethargic…), your performance is low. As you progress with more excitement/arousal, you perform better up to a point when you reach your optimal zone or flow state. Above this point of arousal (which frequently comes in the form of nervousness, or anxiety), performance will drop quickly. Therefore, it is crucial for athletes to find their ideal performance state (the optimal zone). The exercise 1 below will help you find your optimal zone, and exercise 2,3 helps you learn to psych-up or psych-down yourself when your arousal level is not ideal.



Athlete controls nervousness to get to the zone

Exercise 1: Finding Your Ideal Performance State


Think about your own past experiences and in the space below identify and describe the situations listed. Describe how you were feeling, what were some of the thoughts going through your mind, etc. Then rate your performance (not outcome) and energy levels by circling the appropriate number.


Situation 1

Name a competition representing the most important game you ever played

__________________________________________________________________________

Performance level:  (Very Poor)   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10  (Very Good)

Arousal level:  (Extremely low)    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10   (Extremely high)

 

Situation 2

Name a competition in which you choked/ performed very poorly

___________________________________________________________________________

Performance level:  (Very Poor)   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10  (Very Good)

Arousal level:  (Extremely low)    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10   (Extremely high)

 

Situation 3

Name a competition in which you had your best performance

___________________________________________________________________________

Performance level:  (Very Poor)   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10  (Very Good)

Arousal level:  (Extremely low)    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10   (Extremely high)

 

Situation 4

Name a competition in which you had difficulty concentrating

___________________________________________________________________________

Performance level:  (Very Poor)   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10  (Very Good)

Arousal level:  (Extremely low)    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10   (Extremely high)


Situation 5

Name a competition in which you were surprised about your own performance

___________________________________________________________________________

Performance level:  (Very Poor)   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10  (Very Good)

Arousal level:  (Extremely low)    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10   (Extremely high)

 

 


Overcome anxiety to have optimal performance in the zone


Exercise 2: Psych-Down Self-Assessment


When you are over-aroused, what helps you feel psyched-down or relaxed:


Relaxation exercise?  Y  /  N

E.g. Deep breathing, centering technique

What exercise?  _____________________________________________________


Certain imagery/ visualization?   Y  /  N

Do certain types of imagery relax you? E.g. see light blue and feel the relaxation, imagine your mind and body letting go of tension or stress.

What? _____________________________________________________________


Certain thoughts/ self-talk or phrases? Y  /   N

Do certain thoughts or self-talk psych you down? E.g. cue words like “relax”, “calm”; or positive affirmations “It’s going to be all right..”

What? _____________________________________________________________


Music?   Y   /   N

Do certain kinds of music calm you down?

What selection? _____________________________________________________


Certain actions?  Y   /  N

E.g., shaking out hands, shoulders, & neck; stretching; slowing down & taking your time; prayer

What? _____________________________________________________________

 

 


psych-up or psych-down to reduce athletes' anxiety


Exercise 3: Psych-Up Self-Assessment

 

What helps you feel psyched-up?

Certain imagery/ visualization?  Y  /  N

Do certain types of imagery energize you? E.g., animal ore creature like Black Mamba, Shark, Lion…

What? _____________________________________________________________

 

Certain thoughts/ self-talk or phrases?   Y  /  N

Do certain thoughts or self-talk psych you up? E.g., mood words like “aggressive”, “hard”; or self-statements like “I can do it”

What? _____________________________________________________________


Music?   Y   /   N

Do certain kinds of music energize or psych you up?

What selection? _____________________________________________________


Certain actions?  Y   /  N

Do certain actions psych you up? E.g., acting energized, stretching, walking among spectators, preparing equipment, joking with others.

What? _____________________________________________________________

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