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Friday, 6 September 2013

Preseason Anxiety

It is the first day of tryouts, your hands are sweaty, you feel queasy and if the coach looks at you and then their clipboard one more time you are pretty sure you might burst into flames.  Everyone else seems to be understanding the drill perfectly, why does it feel like you have two left feet.

Tryouts and preseason can be a stressful time for everyone no matter their age or competitive level.  Some stress is normal, it is what helps drive us.  When stress becomes too much the body starts to react negativity. The body responds to anxiety mentally, physically and behaviorally.  Being aware of the symptoms both as an athlete and parent and coach is key to starting how to deal with anxiety.

Here are the symptoms of anxiety

Cognitive
Indecision, sense of confusion, feeling heavy, negative thoughts, poor concentration, irritability, fear, forgetfulness, loss of confidence, images of failure, defeatist self-talk, feeling rushed, feeling weak, constant dissatisfaction, unable to take instructions, and thoughts of avoidance.

Physical
Increased blood pressure, pounding heart, increased respiration rate, sweating, clammy hands and feet, butterflies in the stomach, adrenaline surge, dry mouth, need to urinate, muscular tension, tightness in neck and shoulders, trembling, blushing, distorted vision, twitching, yawning, voice distortion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and loss of libido.

Behavioral
Biting fingernails, lethargic movements, inhibited posture, playing safe, going through the motions, introversion, uncharacteristic displays of extroversion, uncharacteristic displays of aggression, avoiding eye contact, covering face with hand, incessant talking, pacing up and down.

All of these can greatly effect performance.

There are some common ways to deal with anxiety to keep you performing at your best.

1. Progressive Muscular Relaxation is the process of moving from one area of the body to another creating and releasing tension.  It is important to start by keeping your breath shallow and steady.  Start with your hands and fingers and work your way up to the head and then down through the torso and into the legs ending with your feet and toes. This technique does take some time to master so practice it before using it during a sporting event.

2. Relaxing Place is a more advanced version of finding your happy place.  The good thing about this technique is that you do not need to be lying or sitting down.  The location you visualize can be real or imaginary but must convey strong sensations of relaxation.  Take a few deep breaths and let the noises of your immediate surroundings fade away.  Start to visualize your relaxing place and let your body relax as you place yourself there.

3. Five Breath Technique removes tension and clears your mind of what is causing your anxiety.  You can use it at any time or during any situation.  It involves taking five deep breaths and relaxing a part of your body during each as you exhale.  During breath one relax your face and neck, breath two relax your shoulders and arms.  When exhaling breath three let the tension release from your chest, abdomen and back.  Breath four relaxes your legs and feet and breath five is a final relaxation of the whole body.

Learning to deal with anxiety from sport is important in forging your path of success.  These techniques can be used throughout the season and off season to put yourself in a relaxed state for competition and training.  It is important to note that if using these skills during a competition not to get too relaxed as you need to keep some level of alertness to perform.

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