Being an athlete can be extremely difficult. You are constantly striving yourself to become a better athlete and to improve your performance. When you push yourself too much, you then become stressed. Stress can be defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. When the body elicits stress, it releases the hormones adrenaline, cortisol, and noradrenaline. These hormones stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which is the body’s “fight or flee” response. This causes an increase in the body’s heart rate, muscle tension, alertness, and energy. How is that bad for an athlete? Some stress can actually improve an athlete’s performance but when too much stress is produced, it can negatively affect his or her performance. Stress can cause anxiety, which can interfere with their focus and reaction time when performing. Also, too much stress can cause other physiological and psychological complications. As an athlete, it is relevant to find mechanisms to reduce your stress. Below are some ways you as an athlete can de-stress yourself.
1. Find leisure time
· As an athlete, you are continuously traveling and active, which can cause your body to become strained. Cutting out time of your hectic week and participating in activities that you enjoy is essential for being a successful athlete. Engage in activities that promote relaxation and happiness. Reading a book is an excellent way to promote relaxation and in a study done by the University of Sussex in 2009, it was found that reading reduced stress by 68%. Socializing with friends and family is another efficient way to reduce stress and increase happiness. By enjoying their company, your mind becomes distracted from your current stressors and you can focus your attention on them rather than if you had a poor practice that day. Treat yourself to a massage to relax the tension in your muscles or participate in meditation classes.
2. Time management skills
· Having effective time management skills is an important factor in reducing stress from an athlete’s busy lifestyle. Especially if you are an athlete in school, trying to balance both your sport and academics can be an overload. Studies done by Häfner and Stock in 2010 and Macan in 1994 found that daily planning might be helpful for initiating goal-oriented behavior and therefore, increase perceived control of time and diminish stress. Acquire a monthly planner or calendar to which you can incorporate all of your practices, games, meetings, homework, projects and events into. Complete this in the beginning of each month and highlight your occupied days. This will help you prepare yourself for your upcoming activities and make you prioritize on what needs to be completed first.
3. Count your blessings
· When stress overcomes us, our mind becomes filled with negative thoughts and we sometimes forget what is most important to us. It is important to step back and ponder about what you should be grateful for. It will bring back a sense of reality and help you think positively. Think about why you are playing this sport and the passion you have for it. You dedicate your time and life to a sport for a reason and think about the people who are incapable of participating. Dr. Kristen Race, the founder of Mindful Life and author of Mindful Parenting stated, “Mindfulness helps train the prefrontal cortex, which helps us stay focused, avoid distraction and perform at our best. It is one of the best ways to calm the stress response in the brain.”
AUTHOR: Alexis Hampilos, University of Central Florida Psychology Student