Anxiety in sports during or right before an athletic event or competition can interfere with your ability to perform during the competition as an athlete. It becomes tough to carry out the coordinated movements required by the athletic events when your body is tense and stiff.
While anxiety at a low level or negligible levels of physical arousal can be beneficial and motivational during the preparation for the sports competition, these levels, when at a greater level, might seriously be harmful to you and might interfere much with your ability to perform at athletic events.
Several athletes across many sports have spoken up about their struggles with anxiety. From the intensity of competition to the pedestal or spotlight they face, athletes must deal with a degree of pressure fans never understand.
Some types of athletes are more prone to feeling the effects of anxiety on performance. As an amateur athlete, you are more likely than seasoned professionals to experience anxiety that interferes with your ability to perform in competition. This makes sense due to your relative lack of experience both in competition and in managing feelings of being “pumped up.”
Athletes who participate in individual sports are also more likely to experience anxiety than those who play team sports. It makes sense that being part of a team helps manage some of the pressure you feel when you compete alone.
What Causes Performance Anxiety in Athletes?
This is common among all sportsmen and sportswomen, the fear of losing, the fear of being inadequate, the fear that stems from not being fully prepared. These affect athletes’ performances as it makes it difficult for them to trust their abilities, reducing their belief and causing them to almost “lose” the match before it starts.
- Poor Mental Health:
Someone who struggles with confidence and self-image disorders is more likely to feel performance anxiety regardless of whether they prepare or not. People in this category should see therapists and get the professional help required.
- Low Competence:
Athletes with lower competencies than their opponents are more likely to be victims of performance anxiety. The only way to solve this is to build skill by practicing and training, which builds confidence.
The ultimate end of overwhelming stress, called burnout, can be exhaustion, ill-health, or breakdown; all these can lead to a feeling of unpreparedness which will eventually cause performance anxiety. Stress alleviation methods may be helpful in this situation. Stress also affects the sexual lives of athletes by causing erectile dysfunction.
Here are some of the usual symptoms of performance anxiety
- Heart palpitations (racing heartbeat)
- High blood pressure (may cause dizziness)
- Excessive Sweating
- Trembling of hands
- Shaky voice
- Fainting (in rare and severe cases)
- Fast or shallow breathing
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty controlling bladder
- Unsettled stomach
- Vision changes
- Cold hands or feet
- Pale or flushed skin
- Increased alertness
- Behavior changes
- A feeling of loss of control
How to Manage Performance Anxiety Symptoms (Anxiety in sports)
Several strategies can help you relax and manage your anxiety related to athletic performance in competitions, including progressive muscle relaxation and visualization.
This training revolves around the relaxation of the body. It is basically to teach individuals and athletes a wide range of different routines to help their bodies relax and support them. The primary purpose of this training is to make the athlete feel relaxed in body and mind. The feeling of relaxation can help the individual become more focused on his performance and carry it out effectively.
Two types of relaxation training are carried out for the athletes.
- First is the one that is related to practices beyond the competition settings and training pitch which can be in the form of participating in yoga classes or listening to music.
- The other type of relaxation is related to changing the environment of the changing room, which can induce positivity before the event; it can be by listening to some soothing music or using calming breathing techniques.
Deep breathing is another way to relax one’s mind and is a strategy that has to be practiced a lot before it can become effective. The primary purpose of this exercise is to let an individual focus not only on his breathing but also on different parts of his body during breathing in and out. This will help them tune their whole body as a one-unit and their breathing, and it can help them relax, especially the part of the body where they are tense.
This is one of the most straightforward and practical techniques that allow individuals to set up goals and focus on the tasks at hand, moving towards a purposeful direction.
Individuals using this technique should set outcome goals and set up process-related smaller goals that can help them attain their primary goal.
Goal setting is technically a mechanism that individuals can use to develop small processes that can be used to achieve their set goals or targets. It also helps as the hormones secreted when small goals or tasks are completed help boost confidence over time.
One other way to help you calm yourself through anxiety in sport is to do self-talking, and you should practice it regularly while avoiding negative thoughts. Positive self-talk can help support the cognitive abilities within our minds. A mind with a positive attitude will be more stable, balanced and provide you with a better chance of succeeding in the event.
The best way to conquer performance anxiety is by building your competence and preparing for unforeseen events. A degree of confidence comes from knowing that you have done all you can to increase your skill, given the amount of time available. This will help build trust, and as you gain more experience in the sport, the possibility of performance anxiety will reduce drastically.
If you are confident in your ability, you are more likely to have a positive reaction to being “pumped up” and will thrive on the challenge of competition. Elite athletes are often so focused on their behavior that they interpret arousal as excitement rather than anxiety. In general, self-confidence tends to be highest when you believe in your ability and feel that you have adequately prepared for the competition at hand.
If you’re struggling with implementing the cures above for performance anxiety, seeing a certified sports psychologist definitely will help you overcome the debilitating feeling of helplessness that comes with performance anxiety.