Priory cognitive behavioral therapist, Lauren Povey, outlines techniques that athletes can use to stop anxiety affecting their performance
Anxiety can have a dramatic impact on performance. The psychological state, which is often caused by stress and worry, is commonly experienced by athletes at all levels.
Lauren Povey, cognitive behavioural therapist who supports people with anxiety at the Priory Hospital in Chelmsford, Great Britain, has outlined techniques people can introduce into their training to reduce the impact that nerves have on how they perform.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a proven treatment that helps people to recognize unhelpful thought patterns and how they are choosing to respond to them. It allows people to become aware of their negative thoughts so that they can adapt and change the dysfunctional behaviors that then follow.
Lauren said: “While you may think that your performance is just driven by external factors like your opponents, the weather or an injury, it is also influenced by what you think you can and can’t do, as a result of these external factors.
“While we can’t stop our thoughts, we can change how we choose to respond to them.”
In the run up to and after competitions, take time in the evening to write down moments when you became anxious and reflect on what you thought, how you felt and how you went on to behave. Think about answering the following questions to help you:
Once well-versed in this technique, you will be able to pause and redirect yourself away from negative thoughts the moment they arise so that they don’t distract you from your main focus.
In the lead-up to your race, regularly visualize the achievement that you want. This will act as a non-verbal instruction, training your body to act confidently in moments when you otherwise would have been nervous.
Just like any skill you use in your sport, it needs to be practiced to be perfected.
Anxiety can cause you to focus on all the mistakes you could make and believe that the worst possible scenario will happen. Swapping this for positive self-talk can prevent these thoughts from intensifying and impacting you before, during and after your performance.
Even when things don’t go quite to plan, you should take the time to review – any small step that you make is progress.
If you feel like your symptoms are becoming more persistent and are having an impact on your day-to-day life, it is important to visit your doctor. He or she will be able to determine whether you need any further professional treatment.
About Priory Group: The Priory Group is the leading independent provider of behavioral care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organized into three divisions – healthcare; education and children’s services; and adult care. The Priory Group is owned by NASDAQ-listed Acadia Healthcare, which is recognized as a global leader in behavioral health.