Stress is really important when we’re trying to improve sports performance, you actually need stress. Exercise and training itself is stressful, you need training stress to force the body to adapt and become better. The only problem is though is that too much stress can have negative side effects. Think of stress like a scale, too much and we run this risk of over-training and getting injured and other end too little and you don’t get better. You will never get rid of stress and so you shouldn’t, but it is important to know how to control stress and manage it in a way that works for you not against you.
More is less
Stress can come in different forms; work, family, relationships, financial, emotional, psychological, physical training etc. It’s important to know that regardless of where the stress is coming from you body is still going through the same stress response. You may be able to cope with stress from one or two places but stress accumulates and the more you add the more your body has to deal with. Once your body hits capacity it can not go on any further and your performance will be severly impacted and your risk for injury significantly increases. The good news is that you can work on managing your stress.
Strategies to help reduce stress
Thankfully there are many ways to manage stress;
- Have fun: Having fun is the simplest and cheapest way to just de-stress in our mind. You can build this into your life through socializing with friends and family. Don’t try and punish yourself too much with all the work and training and find time to have a little bit of fun with your friends and your family.
- Meditation: Not everyone’s into meditation, partly because not everyone’s keen to slow down when secretly, we know we should. Meditation doesn’t have to be formal, you don’t have to go and do three years of zen training with the yogis, or with the monks in Tibet. The great thing now is that we have technology that can help us achieve a better state of mind. There are so many good meditation apps out there (Headspace, Calm, Insight timer, Yogaglo, Enso, 10% Happier: Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics). Meditation can help you feel a lot calmer but it’s also helps with your day to day tasks, after meditating for a few weeks you might find that you aren’t as reactive to certain stressful situtations and you can handle stress much better. “I don’t have time” is often the main excuse for not meditating but you don’t need to spend 2 hours a day trying to find internal wisdom, instead start with 10 minutes. Do it at the start of your day, get up, have a shower and spend 10 minutes working on yourself.
- Controlled breathing: We all need to breathe, although, how we breathe can have an impact on our bodily responses. A simple cycle of controlled breathing can reduce your heart rate, stress, anxiety and provide mental clarity. Controlled breathing is really simple to do and can be done anywhere. The simplest form of controlled breathing is referred to as box breathing. Box breathing is as simple as like a three second inhale, hold for three seconds, three second exhale, hold for three seconds and repeat. A minute or two is enough to see positive effects. You can do this in the car, at work, anywhere.
The miracle morning
The miracle morning is a great book written by Hal Elrod and is like a warm up routine for the start of your day. Hal breaks the rotine down into a simple acronym S.A.V.E.R.S –
Silence: Just sit in silence for 30 seconds to a minute, be with yourself. All the hustle bustle gets in the way, just be with yourself for 30 seconds to a minute.
Affirmation: An affirmation is a simple way to confirm and reiterate why you are doing something or that you are going to achieve something. If you tell yourself it’s going to come true and you really believe it’s going to come true than it will find a way to come to fruition. All the best athletes in the world and anyone who’s achieved something all have affirmations. It’s a great way to reaffirm to yourself that you’re doing all right.
Visualise: If there’s something that you need to do for the day, visualize yourself doing it. Visualize yourself getting it done. If you want to do a training session today, visualize what that training session’s gonna look like.
Exercises: This doesn’t have to be a full on training session it can be as simple as mobility or yoga flow. It is just something to get the body moving and blood flowing.
Read: Reading something stimulates the brain and gets the connections working better. You can read something inspirational or motivational. Just spend 30 seconds to a minute reading something that might help you throughout the day.
Scribe: Write down all your thoughts and feelings. Write down what you have to do for the day (to-do list). Get all your thoughts in your head written down so it’s not cluttered and clouding your judgment and your mindset. Now your mind can be clear and creative.
Stress has positive and negative affects on athletes, it’s important to learn how to control and manipulate stress so you can take advantage of it when you need it and not let it get you down.