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Mental Skills: Relaxation and Control of Physiological Arousal

As competitive athletes, our ability to maintain focus during crucial moments is paramount to our success. To achieve this, we must hone in on mental skills such as attentional focus, self-talk, and control of physiological arousal. In this post, we'll delve into the significance of the latter and how it can boost our confidence and performance.

Control of physiological arousal entails striking a delicate balance between being adequately charged for competition and avoiding excessive tension that hampers performance. Each athlete has a unique optimal level of arousal, which depends on individual traits, the nature of the sport, and the specific situation. Some sports necessitate a calmer state (e.g., target shooting), while others thrive on heightened arousal (e.g., powerlifting), with most falling somewhere in between.

When we surpass our optimal arousal zone, our performance is negatively impacted. We might experience physical reactions like "butterflies" in the stomach, tense shoulders, or sweaty palms, signaling heightened anxiety. Such anxious feelings can trigger a downward spiral, leading to performance errors and self-doubt, further exacerbating the problem. Additionally, anxiety might narrow our focus, causing us to miss crucial information from the environment, like coach instructions or competitor positions.

Nevertheless, it's essential to recognize that experiencing anxiety in competitive situations is normal and almost universal among athletes. The key to success lies in learning how to identify and control our physiological tension effectively. Simply instructing ourselves to "relax" might not suffice if we lack specific relaxation techniques.

One powerful technique is #progressivemusclerelaxation, which involves sequentially tensing and then relaxing various muscle groups. This exercise heightens our awareness of tension and relaxation, enabling us to detect and reduce muscle tension in real-time during competition. When combined with positive self-talk, progressive muscle relaxation breaks the detrimental spiral of tension and instills a state of relaxed confidence, signaling to our mind that we are prepared to perform at our best.

Another easily implementable #relaxation technique is one-breath relaxation. By inhaling slowly to a count of three to five, holding the #breath for the same duration, and then exhaling just as gradually while relaxing, we can swiftly induce a more relaxed state.

Ultimately, the ability to find and control our optimal level of arousal grants us the upper hand in competitive situations. Whether we need to pump ourselves up or calm ourselves down, being in control of our arousal levels allows us to be in control of the game.

In conclusion, recognising and managing #physiological arousal is a crucial mental skill for every competitive athlete. When we acknowledge tension or detrimental arousal and then employ relaxation techniques to regain control, we convey a powerful message to our mind: "I am calm, cool, collected, in control, and ready to compete." This results in positive self-talk, bolstered confidence, and an enhanced mindset for peak performance on the court or field. Let's embrace these mental skills and elevate our game to new heights!

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