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Anxiety And Stress Management In Sports: 5 Important Strategies To Make It Easy

April 28, 2023

7 min read

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Author : United We Care
Anxiety And Stress Management In Sports: 5 Important Strategies To Make It Easy

Introduction

These days, more and more national and international players are discussing mental health and their mental health journeys [1]. However, concepts such as sports anxiety and stress significantly impact a player are rarely discussed. This article attempts to bridge this gap and strives to provide practical strategies for anxiety and stress management in sports.

Why Are Anxiety And Stress Management Important In Sports?

Nervousness and stress before a game are every day. Depending upon that individual’s zone of optimal functioning [2], some nervousness and anxiety can be beneficial.

However, when this arousal becomes dysfunctional, it can be called sports anxiety which is defined as a negative emotional state of high arousal accompanied by physical symptoms like increased heart rate, sweating, feelings of breathlessness, and cognitive symptoms like worry, self-doubt, images of losing and humiliation [3, p 115] [4].

Sports anxiety has been found to have an impact on several aspects of sports [5] [6] [7]. Research shows that it can:

Why Are Anxiety And Stress Management Important In Sports?

  • Lead to poor overall performance
  • Inability to focus effectively during the game
  • Poor decision-making within the game
  • Lower satisfaction with playing
  • Increased risk of injury and poorer rehabilitation
  • Discontinuation of sports
  • Flawed physiological and psychological well being

Understanding how to manage stress and anxiety in sports can equip players to deal with pressure and ensure optimal performance and health.

Identifying Your Triggers For Anxiety And Stress Management Important In Sports

The first step to managing this anxiety is understanding the stressors and how they might impact a player. In sports, triggers can be commonly characterized into two domains: Individual Factors and Situational Factors.

Individual Factors

What are the individual factors triggering anxiety & stress

These factors depend on the individual’s personality and life [3] [8]. These include:

  • Trait Anxiety: Trait anxiety refers to an individual’s inclination to perceive situations as more threatening, leading to cognitive and somatic anxiety symptoms and reduced self-confidence. People with high levels of trait anxiety tend to experience these symptoms more frequently.
  • Locus of Control: Locus of control denotes the degree to which an individual believes they have control over their life. While it is not directly related to sports anxiety, some researchers have shown that those with an internal locus of control saw concern as suitable for their performance. Those with an external locus of control say it was terrible for them.
  • Perfectionism: Being overly obsessed with perfection in performance often contributes to sports stress and anxiety.
  • Past Experiences: The level of experience a person has helps manage anxiety. Players with more experience facing opponents are often much better at controlling anxiety symptoms.

Situational Factors

There are many factors inherent in the situation or the sport which may contribute to anxiety [3] [9] [10]. These include:

What are the Situational Factors Triggering Anxiety & Stress

  • Event importance: how important an individual perceives an event to affect their anxiety level. Events with high priority, like finals or selection matches, cause more anxiety than others.
  • Expectations: The athlete’s appraisal of how much others, including the coaches, expect them would affect how threatening they perceive an event. Higher expectations cause higher anxiety.
  • Solo sports: Athletes who play solo sports and have to burden the winning or losing label themselves, unlike teams where the whole team shares the burden, report feeling more anxious.

Read more about- Over Ambitious Parent

Strategies to Manage Anxiety and Stress Management in Sports

What are the Strategies to Manage Anxiety and Stress in Sports

It has been dramatically acknowledged that more than the skill level, the player’s ability to handle anxiety and stress separates the winner and loser [3]. It is possible to manage sports-related anxiety by oneself, and some of the effective strategies are:

  1. Practice in events of lower importance: Since anxiety and stress are bound to arise, the more a player practices facing them in different competitions, the higher the skill of managing them will be.
  2. Meditation: meditation allows individuals to ground themselves in the present moment and calm their thoughts. It is a valuable intervention for athletes [11].
  3. Relaxation activities: breathing techniques, imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation can be learned and practiced to reduce anxiety and stress [12].
  4. Cognitive Reappraisal: finding ways to reinterpret the situation as less threatening (for example, reducing perceived pressure or importance) can help manage anxiety.
  5. Self-Talk: this is a technique of repeating specific positive phrases to oneself to stop the negative thought pattern. Self-talk has decreased anxiety symptoms and boosted athletes’ self-confidence [13].

Resources for Anxiety And Stress Management In Sports

As mentioned previously, numerous techniques exist to cope with the anxiety and stress of sports. It is essential to note that individuals are different; thus, they must develop other mechanisms to cope with stressful events. It can be helpful to understand the extent of anxiety that is present. One can use the Sports Anxiety Scale [14] to test this. This can also give an insight into the type of anxiety one faces. Tools that help increase this insight, such as a worry exploration sheet [15], are also beneficial.

Further, understanding how performance can be enhanced and thoughts kept at bay is also helpful. Athletes can take their journey forward by delving into these concepts via numerous books [16]. Alternatively, they can use many online resources, such as meditation videos [17], to learn how to control one’s thoughts.

Finally, reaching out to a trained professional for help can often be helpful. Sports Psychologists are explicitly instructed to help athletes manage their distress and enhance performance.

Must read– Parental Involvement in Kid’s Sport Performance

Conclusion

Experiencing stress and anxiety, especially when a player faces intense competition, is expected. However, anxiety and stress significantly affect the performance and the player’s well-being. It is thus important to recognize one’s triggers and learn how to manage them effectively. Techniques such as relaxation, meditation, and cognitive appraisal are helpful in this management. Further, an athlete can consider seeking professional help if their anxiety becomes debilitating and they cannot manage it alone.

References

  1. N. Lahoty, “5 sportspersons’ sweeping victory over Mental Health,” SportsTiger, 05-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available here
  2. “Individual zones of optimal functioning (IZOF),” – Sportlyzer Academy. [Online]. Available here [Accessed: 28-Mar-2023].
  3. M. Jarvis, Sport psychology: A student’s handbook. London: Routledge, 2006. Available here
  4. E. Dingley, “Anxiety in sport,” Sport Science Insider, 06-Sep-2022. [Online]. Available here [Accessed: 28-Mar-2023].
  5. C. Englert and A. Bertrams, “Anxiety, ego depletion, and sports performance,” Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 34, no. 5, pp. 580–599, 2012. Available here
  6. A. Khan, “Effects of anxiety on athletic performance,” Research & Investigations in Sports Medicine, vol. 1, no. 2, 2017. Available here
  7. J. Ford, K. Ildefonso, M. Jones, and M. Arvinen-Barrow, “Sport-related anxiety: Current insights,” Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. Volume 8, pp. 205–212, 2017. Available here
  8.  “How trait and state anxiety influence athletic performance.” [Online]. Available here [Accessed: 28-Mar-2023]
  9. J. Baker, J. Côté, and R. Hawes, “The relationship between coaching behaviors and sport anxiety in athletes,” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 110–119, 2000. Available here
  10. C. M. C. Emily Pluhar, “Team Sports athletes may be less likely to suffer anxiety or depression than individual sport athletes,” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 01-Aug-2019. [Online]. Available here . [Accessed: 28-Mar-2023]. Team Sport Athletes
  11. L. S. Colzato and A. Kibele, “How different types of meditation can enhance athletic performance depending on the specific sport skills,” Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 122–126, 2017. Available here
  12. V. A. Parnabas, Y. Mahamood, J. Parnabas, and N. M. Abdullah, “The relationship between relaxation techniques and sports performance,” Universal Journal of Psychology, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 108–112, 2014. Available here
  13. N. Walter, L. Nikoleizig, and D. Alfermann, “Effects of self-talk training on competitive anxiety, self-efficacy, volitional skills, and performance: An intervention study with junior sub-elite athletes,” Sports, vol. 7, no. 6, p. 148, 2019. Available here
  14. R. E. Smith, F. L. Smoll, S. P. Cumming, and J. R. Grossbard, “Measurement of Multidimensional Sports Performance Anxiety in children and adults: The sports anxiety scale-2,” Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 479–501, 2006. Available here
  15. “Worry exploration questions (worksheet),” Therapist Aid. [Online]. Available here [Accessed: 28-Mar-2023].
  16. P. D. Jeremy Sutton, “20 best sports psychology books for motivating athletes,” PositivePsychology.com, 14-Mar-2023. [Online]. Available here. [Accessed: 28-Mar-2023].
  17. “Guided meditation for athletes | I am affirmations before bed,” YouTube, 14-Mar-2022. [Online]. Available here [Accessed: 28-Mar-2023].

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Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

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