Practical tools

MANAGING THE IMPACT OF ACUTE STRESS ON PERFORMANCE

performance: Sport & More

What is performance?


There are many ways to define performance, but for me this one works best because it highlights how performance is all across our lives.

A performance is anytime you have to apply your skills on demand, at a specific time 

This means formal performances like dance and sport competitions.  It also includes things like public speaking, presentations, and demonstrations.  And finally it also covers times when you use specialized training on demand in your job - think paramedics and other emergency workers. 


improving performance


Performance can be improved directly through developing skills related to focus, mental rehearsal, stress regulation, pre-planning, and other mental tools.

Indirectly, improving performance may come through working on many things; better communication with others (coaches, parents, coworkers, etc), time management (time for practice, time for preparation, fitting in other demands), setting boundaries and balancing priorities, and setting goals, for example.

Everything you need to improve performance is learnable and doable. 


case study: Val


Val is in her 30's and just completed her Masters degree.  She contacted me the week before her final thesis defence. 

She was overwhelmed with stress and anxiety about the defence, and, along with being miserable, it was getting in the way of her preparations.   

We came up with concrete tools to manage her stress in the moment, both during the presentation and in the days before.  This included having a focus plan and ways to manage physical tension (shortness of breath, racing heart). 

We discussed how the stress response works and how everything she was experiencing stemmed from this.  From there we made a plan to override her brain's sense of threat.   

Her nerves in the days leading up to the defence became much more manageable, and she was able to give a solid performance when it counted. 

"My nerves have calmed substantially since we talked...I can't thank you enough for your help.  It made a huge impact!" 

case study: Anna


Anna is a competitive amateur in a physically and mentally demanding sport.  She came to me with issues of fear and anxiety that were getting in the way of her training, her competing, and also her enjoyment.

We went at these issues from both the physical and mental side of things, as both were equally effecting her performance.  We discussed in detail the very real risks of her sport and developed ways to come to terms with them.  We identified patterns and situations that lead to fearful thoughts overwhelming her, and made a strategy for heading this off.

We worked on techniques to counteract the physical effects of fear (tension, changes in posture and motor control), to lessen its impact on her performance.  We involved her coach so that when fear was overtaking her, the coach knew how to "snap her out of it". 

Anna was able to apply these skills to training situations and eventually in competition, where she continues to be successful.

"This work has been incredibly helpful, not just for the help with my sport, but also for understanding other problems in my life."