The Effect of Anxiety

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Anxiety and its Consequences

All athletes, performing at all levels of competition, are familiar with feelings of anxiety and arousal. Whether it’s a small child with a dry mouth before their first basketball game or Greg Oden’s first step onto the court for an NBA game that actually matters, everyone experiences some degree of anxiety relating to competition.

How can anxiety influence us during competition? Several theories have come out of sport psychology research over the decades. One theory of particular note was pioneered by British psychologist Graham Jones. His theory was simple: That our perception of how our own ability to control our anxiety, and our ability to control outselves and our surroundings, determines the anxiety’s effect. If an athlete feels they are in control, and that anxiety is manageable, than this level of arousal will likely lead to superior performance. However, the opposite can have negative consequences.

Another theory which has been well demonstrated in research is Yuri Hanin’s Individualized Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF). In a nutshell, Hanin posits that every athlete will have a different amount of anxiety or arousal which can lead to their ultimate performance. For example, one athlete may compete well at relatively low levels of arousal but not when extremely anxious or “pumped up”; alternatively, another athlete may perform poorly when unaroused but very well in high anxiety or tension situations.

So now that we know about anxiety, what can we do about it to maximize our performance? Check outPeak Performance’s guide to controlling and managing our anxiety. They have five key points for maximizing effectiveness:

1. Establish your ‘winning feeling’

2. Centering

3. The five breath technique

4. Thought stopping

5. Letting go

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