“I’ve never been afraid of big moments. I get butterflies… I get nervous and anxious, but I think those are all good signs that I’m ready for the moment.” Stephen Curry
Coaches and clinicians dealing with athletes must recognize and understand the mental health difficulties that commonly impact athletes and adopt effective treatments to help.
What is Stress?
Stress appears to be as much a part of the human experience as anything else.
Stressors can be both internal or external and negative or positive.
Intrinsic stressors originate from within a person, e.g., worry, overthinking, and tiredness, whereas external stressors originate from outside the individual, e.g., deadlines, interpersonal conflict, and financial strain.
Stress is a part of life that affects everyone.
However, athletes are more likely than non-athletes to experience it because of the balancing they must do between school, practices, games, family demands, and everyday life.
Anything that causes stress triggers a biological reaction. Chemicals and hormones flood your body when you sense a threat or a significant difficulty.
Stress has been recognized as a critical element in athletics, affecting performance and social functioning. Increased anxiety and burn-out have been linked to a lack of capacity to manage stress in sports and lower self-esteem and performance challenges.
How Stress Affects Athletes
Each athlete reacts differently to stress and anxiety.
For an athlete, several reasons might induce stress. The stress model and the stress response process are two ways.
The stress model explains how several factors cause stress in sports. Stress may affect performance, how an athlete responds to stress, how stress is managed, and how it can have a detrimental or good impact on the athlete’s stress level.
Stress Model, Graham-Jones & Hardy (1990)
There are five steps to the stress response process:
Stage 1 represents the environmental demand
Stage 2 represents the athlete’s perception of the environmental demand
Stage 3 represents the athlete’s stress response to the environmental demand
Stage 4 represents the behavioral consequences of the stress response to the behavioral demand
Stage 5 represents the athlete’s return to a homeostatic position
Causes for Competitive Stress
There are four primary causes of competitive stress reaction before the competition that has been proposed:
1. Belief that an athlete’s mental skills before a competition might influence future performance.
2. Assumption that the athlete has some control over their mental skills during pre-contemplation.
3. This time is far more accessible to researchers than the competition period in terms of practicality.
4. If pre-competition anxiousness is a cause of poor performance variance, the sport psychologist can help the athlete achieve a good pre-competition mood.
Next week 2 of 4 – Athletes that struggle with stress and what they are doing about it.
If you are struggling with a mental health issue or need someone to talk to, Let’s Connect at drdcoffey.com/mentalhealth