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


 

 

 


CAse Study: Val

Performance can be effected by things directly related to it, and equally by other things in our lives.  What is needed to improve performance can therefore be wide ranging.  

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 needed to improve performance is learnable and doable.         


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.  She identified specific frustrations (for example, "blanking" and not being able to come up with answers), so we discussed how the stress response works and how the various issues she was experiencing were all part of her brain's sense of threat.  From there we made a plan to override this feeling 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: Sarah

Sarah 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 also laid out a strategy for when fearful thoughts overwhelmed her. 

On the physical side we worked on skills for when fear got in the way of her performing physically.  We developed strategies to counter the hunched shoulder, tense muscles, and decreased motor control that came with the fear. 

Sarah 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 in understanding other problems in my life."