Entering into a competition is stressful to begin with, but what happens when we are also bringing our emotional baggage into the game? Can we still perform at our best?

The simple answer is no. Any added emotional burden is draining and when we don’t feel our best, so we cannot perform at our best.

 As emotional stresses begin to build up, it lessens our ability to reach our peak performance and can even cause performance anxiety. The evidence from modern neuroscience explains that when our prefrontal (thinking) cortex and limbic (emotional) system are not communicating effectively, we tend to react emotionally rather than logically, and lose focus. Having emotional turmoil is harmful to your health and prohibits you from playing relaxed, confident, and focused in any competition.

Try out some of these strategies if you’re feeling your emotions are preventing you from performing at your best.

·      Be aware of your emotions. Having emotional awareness is essential to being able to focus on the competition. Emotional awareness means that you are in tune with how your body is reacting to your emotions and how you feel relating to specific events. This allows you to perform the way you desire rather than directing any attention to an anxious emotional state. It helps you to zero in on the important things in the moment, such as where the ball is, what the opponents are doing, and what your next move should be.

·      Walk away from the negative and focus on the positive. Carrying around anger and negative thoughts creates a physical response in the body and causes you to become rigid and tense. When trying to achieve peak performance one of the most effective strategies is to quite literally turn your back on any negative influence and shut them down by replacing them with the positive thoughts and present events. Think about how much you love what you’re doing, what the objective is, and that you’re there because you deserve to be.

·      Practice relaxing rituals. Incorporating a breathing ritual before each competition has been proven effective for increasing peak performance. Dr. Weils suggests using the 4-7-8 breathing technique. You begin by exhaling through your mouth then inhaling through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Also, it’s important to relax your shoulders and facial muscles during this exercise to release excess tension.

Learning how to respond to your emotions and working past them is key to achieving your peak performance. Including these strategies and focusing on your emotional awareness ensures that you are managing your emotions and your emotions aren’t managing you.



AUTHOR: Danielle James, Psychology Intern

Danielle is a recent psychology graduate from the University of Central Florida. She has a passion for helping individuals identify and work through emotional and mental health concerns to provide a higher quality of life. Her goals include achieving her Psy.D in Clinical Psychology that allows for a deeper understanding of future clients and a more interactive perspective.

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