Attached are slides from the first week of the Mental Skills Training Workshop. The workshop is held on Monday’s from 6pm – 7pm in Younkin Rm 300. Be there!
Check out Dr. Jen Carter giving three simple tips on managing pre-performance anxiety!
Anxiety! The dreaded spilling over disease! Anxiety is a common psychological concern that is often characterized as intense worry that is difficult to control, as well as uncomfortable physical sensations, such as muscle tension, jitteriness, and rapid heart rate. Anxiety can happen for a few reasons. Some of us are just naturally more anxious as people. Maybe are parents are anxious and they passed down some anxious traits. In other cases, the environment that we are in can make us anxious. For instance, having the stress of athletics, school, and social life can lead us to feel stressed and, if not dealt with properly, incredibly anxious. In fact, anxiety is one of the most common mental/psychological concerns that student-athletes face. Hence, in this week’s blog, I want to share a few simple tips to better manage your anxiety.
1) Connect with the breath – If you have been following the blog, by now you should have realized how often we mention engaging in deep breathing. The reason why breathing is so helpful is because it releases physical tension from the body, slows down the mind, and allows you to focus on being in the moment. Whenever you are feeling anxious, just focus on slowing down your breath, and let the tension melt away.
2) Stay in the now – Oftentimes when we are anxious we are overly focused on future stressors or past regrets. In either case, our anxiety takes us from the current moment. In times of stress reconnect to the current moment and simply focus on the task directly in front of you. You can identify this by stating “What’s Important Now?” (W.I.N.). After you’ve taken care of whatever is most pressing, then you can move onto the next thing. Make sure to stay right in the moment and don’t get too far ahead of yourself.
3) View stress differently – Anxiety can be awfully uncomfortable and distressing, especially when it becomes too much to handle. As a result, we start over focusing on our anxiety and try to force it away. Instead of doing this, try to accept your anxiety rather than fighting it. B gently accepting and acknowledging your stress, you take away its power. Appreciate that there is a lot on your plate right now and that feeling stressed is OK and normal. Realize that as long as you connect with the breath, identify what’s important now, and take care of what you need to, the rest can fall into place.
We will never completely get rid of stress and anxiety. The goal is learn to manage it more effectively. By practicing these three simple tips you can learn to take control of anxiety, rather than it taking control of you.
To be high performing athletes, we have to be incredibly aware. Aware of our position on the field, aware of what the opponent is doing, or aware of the situation going on around us. Improved awareness is critical to the technical, tactical, and physical performance! However, we often neglect the importance of awareness in helping us achieve a high level of success. By being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we can learn to identify, evaluate, and perhaps change those elements that are essential for our performance.
Our own internal thoughts can be our best friend or our worst enemy. However, in order for us to befriend our thoughts and use them strategically to help improve our performance, we must first become aware of the thoughts we have and their quality. To do this, we can simply take note of our thoughts after a performance. What was the content? Were they positive or negative? In what situation did they occur? Were they helpful or destructive?
Awareness of our emotional, as well as physical, feelings is especially helpful to our performance. Becoming aware of when we become frustrated or anxious can help us to better understand the triggers that bring on these feelings, which allows us to establish a game plan for dealing with these emotions in the moment. In addition, awareness of our physical state can allow us to increase our energy if we’re too relaxed, decrease our anxiety if we’re too panicky, and release muscle tension if we’re too tight. However, without awareness we would have little knowledge of the physical state we are in before it is too late.
What behaviors do you engage in that yield the greatest success? What things do you do that get in the way of you progressing? Awareness of what we do, why we do them, and their impact, can have huge implications for our performance. Ultimately we want to do more of what makes us perform better and less of what makes us not. Being aware of this helps us to make more informed and deliberate choices that can lead to better outcomes on and off the field.
Are you AWARE?
Have you ever felt the urge to hurl your golf club into the water hazard? Scream obscenities at opponents? Call yourself an idiot for making a mistake?
Managing anger is a challenge for all athletes. Here are four strategies to manage your anger most effectively:
–Anger is a healthy, human emotion we all experience (whether or not we’re aware of it). People describe anger as tightening in the chest, pounding heartbeat, flushed face, muscular tension, trembling, and/or racing thoughts. Anger can help by energizing and signaling a time to assert our rights.
–Aggression is a behavior that’s not healthy. Screaming, throwing things, acting violently—these behaviors serve only to increase anger, not diffuse it, and may cause serious harm to others.
2) BREATHE. Deep breaths are simple yet powerful. However, we often forget to use them when we need them most. What do you notice about your breath right now? If you’re angry or anxious, your breath is likely shallow and quick. To practice diaphragmatic or belly breaths, inhale through your nose and let the breath travel deep into the pit of your belly. Push your belly out with air. Exhale completely through your mouth. Rinse and repeat. Let your breaths gently become slower and deeper.
3) Challenge your thoughts. Is it true someone can “make” you get angry? NO. We are responsible for our own emotions and reactions. Other negative interpretations include “He’s trying to get to me” or “Nobody understands” or “I just blew the game”. Seek the facts and avoid jumping to conclusions. Athletes can use “trigger words”: words or phrases about the task at hand that are under their control, like “Quick and loose”, “Eye on the ball”, “Stay low”, “Do my best”, etc.
4) Communicate directly. Tell someone what you want or don’t want: “I want to stop arguing” or “I don’t want to disrespect you.” We’re more likely to reach our goals when we state them clearly. Did you know that simply labeling an emotion (e.g. “I’m angry”) can decrease its intensity? Instead of “You’re purposely ticking me off,” say “I’m angry when you leave your stuff by the front door.”
What strategies work best for managing YOUR anger?
Our attitude is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, influence of how we approach life and respond to situations. Attitude is defined as a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something. We have many attitudes. Attitudes about the foods we like, the activities we do, and even about ourselves. These attitudes then impact how we decide to approach life. Though attitudes are settled and become habitual over time, they are not unchangeable. In fact, if you dedicate yourself to changing your attitude about something, you can slowly re-wire your mind to more consistently think in this new way.
The great American Philosopher, William James, wrote “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of the mind.” This is an incredibly powerful skill to realize, understand, and implement. If you are someone who currently struggles through life by having a negative attitude about yourself or about your situation, it’s time to consider whether you might benefit from tweaking your belief system. Tweaking your belief system can be done in two ways:
1) Gain new experiences
Sometimes we have attitudes that our based on the past and, unlike our iPhone’s, they do not automatically update every night. We have to stretch our comfort zones to acquire new beliefs about life. For instance, I never thought I would ever like guacamole, however, one day in Telluride, Colorado I tried it…I’ve loved it ever since. Sometimes we need to try new things and put ourselves out there to experience an update in attitude.
2) Hi-jack your brain
As described in the definition, attitudes are settled into our brains. Much like a 4-lane, concrete highway our attitudes are smooth, fast, and accessible. Thinking in a new way requires forcing yourself to take an alternative route. These new routes are bumpy at first and the tendency is to want to get back on that smooth, 4-lane highway. However, in order to update your attitude, you have to prove that this new, alternative route is the better route. Over time, it’ll get more use and eventually it becomes the fastest route to take. So, in order to change your attitude, you have to constantly engage in your new way of thinking before it becomes habit. Be aware of your old attitude, and any time it shows up, identify it and replace it with the new attitude.
In closing, I’d like to reiterate that each one of us can decide how we want to view life. It takes effort and time to adopt a new way of thinking, but it can be done, and it’s our choice.
“We each have a choice: to approach life as a creator or a critic, a lover or a hater, a giver or a taker.” – Unknown
Adaptable – the ability to adjust to new conditions.
Adaptability is a pre-requisite for being a successful student-athlete. Though many of us possess the capability to transition well in new circumstances, there are those times when we all might struggle. As the new school year approaches, we will be faced with new conditions that we must adapt to. Incoming freshmen may need to adapt from being away from home and adjust to a newer, more demanding schedule. Upperclassmen may face harder upper-level classes and increased roles on the team to be particularly challenging. Thus, it is critical we take a moment to assess our own levels of adaptability and implement strategies to enhance our abilities to conquer these new and more demanding situations.
Strategy 1: Choose to be a fighter.
Fighters are devoted to making adjustments, not excuses. Fighters are accountable and believe they can be successful. They choose to get better every day and look for reasons to be positive. Victims, on the other hand, make excuses, blame others, complain, and avoid difficult situations. Look at your current situation. Are you being a victim or a fighter?? The choice is yours!
Strategy 2: Create a plan of attack
Sometimes when we are faced with new, demanding conditions we become overwhelmed and can’t think straight. As a result, we need a quick, go-to strategy for getting our minds in the right state to deal with whatever challenging situation we’re in. This plan of attack involves the following three steps:
1) What? – Identify what exactly is the new, challenging situation.
2) So what? – Identify that which you actually have control over and that which you do not.
3) Now what? – Identify the best plan of attack based on what is going on and what you are actually able to do about it.
Strategy 3: Be creative
Adjusting to new conditions involves thinking on your feet and identifying new ways of doing things. By thinking outside of the box you can come up with a variety of solutions and skills that can turn stress into strength. Practice being in challenging or unique situations and experiment with creative strategies. Incorporate these strategies into your tool box
Athletes are no strangers to goal setting, whether learning a new skill, winning a competition, or achieving a personal record, athletes are built to strive. As a new school year approaches and your athletic training hits the reset button, I wanted to offer a unique goal-setting process that can help harness your focus in your pursuit of goals both large and small.
This goal setting journey requires answering four questions.
1) What is your IT? Not surprisingly, the IT is the goal that you desire. ITs are unique to each individual. It can be a personal, athletic, academic, social, ANYTHING. We may have multiple ITs but we have to keep in mind that is difficult to give 100% to every IT, and that the more ITs we have, the more our energy gets spread out and drained.
Example: “I want to pass my fitness test.”
2) Why do you want IT? In order to get where you want to go you need emotional fuel. Connecting with the WHY taps into your inner motivational resources. By connecting with your motivation, you are frequently fueled to continue pursuing your IT. When you become tired, stressed, or frustrated during your pursuit of a goal, remind yourself of the WHY to re-energize and continue your relentless journey.
Example: “I want to pass my fitness test because I know I can push my body to do it and I know it’s critical to my role on the team.”
3) Who do you need to be to accomplish IT? Here it is important to identify the values, strengths, skills, knowledge-bases, resources, etc. needed to accomplish the goal. Do you need to build stamina, work on becoming more patient, or develop an expertise in finance? Whatever your IT is, you need to decide on, and then become, the type of person you need to be to achieve it.
Example: “I need to become mentally tough to run through discomfort and fatigue. I also need to manage my time well to fit in workouts.”
4) How will you achieve IT? Finally, you have to identify the steps required to make IT happen. Here is when your mini-S.M.A.R.T. goals come into play. By identifying the baby-steps required to achieve your larger IT, you create a road map or blueprint to follow. Of course, the implementation is the hardest part, but the more detailed your steps are, the easier the plan is to follow.
Example: “In order to pass my fitness test I need to a) build stamina by attending workouts, b) progressively increase my workout load each week, c) treat my body well (nutrition, stretching, sleep, substances), d) practice positive self-talk and deep breathing.“
Obviously, the above example is a simplified version of the simplified process. In addition, the larger the goal, the more involved this process will be. But, by deliberately answering these questions you will be able to focus your mental, physical, and emotional energies to increase the likelihood of pursuing and achieving your goals. Make IT happen!
Do You Have Insomnia?
With the crazy schedules we maintain, we might assume that our exhaustion leads to sound sleep. However, insomnia plagues many of us. Individuals who attend counseling at OSU Sports Medicine report sleep problems as one of their highest concerns. Insomnia is one symptom of depression and anxiety.
Are we helpless in reducing insomnia? Absolutely not! There are many effective strategies for improving quality of sleep.
Five Tips to Catch Some ZZZs
1. Establish a Bedtime Routine While it is difficult to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day, experts recommend this routine to help sleep. If you have insomnia, try to keep your wake-up time constant but go to bed one hour later for a few nights. Some people enjoy a nighttime routine that includes a warm shower, a hot non-caffeinated beverage, reading, or writing in a journal. Avoid watching TV or using electronics right before bed, because blue light suppresses melatonin.
2. Chill Out Insomnia is so frustrating. And, tensing up or trying to force sleep makes it more difficult. Use diaphragmatic breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to unwind after a long day. Sport psychologists can make a relaxation audio file for you. Trust your body to slip into sleep when you’re ready.
3. Think Accurately about Sleep There are myths that interfere with sleep, like, “I have to get 8 hours or tomorrow will be ruined!” Realistically, many people function quite well on less sleep. Our bodies will eventually catch up on sleep if we don’t worry about it too much. Look at insomnia as a gift, allowing you to get things done or attend to a pressing issue. Keep a notepad or journal near the bed to write down worries to be addressed while awake.
4. Interfere with ruminations Do you have worrisome thoughts playing in a loop in your mind? Dr. Marsha Linehan advises interfering with those ruminations by counting 1-10 ten times. The first time through, pause after one. The second time through, pause after two, and so on. This technique makes it impossible to worry by occupying your mind. Another tip is to splash cold water on your face. Or, label your worry as solvable or insolvable. If insolvable, go deep into the worst thing that could happen and imagine coping with it.
4. Other Sound Strategies Get more balanced exercise. Limit caffeine later in the day. Keep your bedroom cold, dark, and quiet to enhance some good zzzzs. And, avoid using alcohol to fall asleep (alcohol actually interferes with REM sleep).
Hello and welcome to the Official OSU Sport Psychology Blog Page!
Housed in Ohio State University Sport’s Medicine, the Sport Psychology Team gives athletes the tools to maintain good mental health, manage stress effectively and build quality relationships, which can help improve their performance and their lives on and off the field.
At this site you will find a weekly blog that will provide information and practical tips on enhancing one’s mental game, as well as address common clinical concerns that may impact college student-athletes.
Check back each Monday for your Mental Minute of the Week!