Archive | July, 2012

The importance of the mind in sporting performance

24 Jul

2012 has already been a great year for sports fans, and it is set to get much better in just a few days with the London 2012 Olympic Games getting underway. The Olympics is a great showcase for sports and athletes across the globe, it pits the best against the best while we mere arm chair athletes watch on with excitement, cheering on our own personal favourites.

Most of the sports in the Olympics though focus very much on the individual. Unlike team games like cricket or rugby, at the Olympics the majority of athletes are out there competing all alone. Being part of a team can be mentally a little easier, allowing you to gain re-assurance and confidence from your team mate’s performance. In many ways, being in the spotlight as part of a team is a lot easier than being out there competing on your own. In many sports such as Athletics, Archery, Tennis and Gymnastics, the athlete is alone with just their own thoughts and performance.

100mFinal

Mental strength and focus is always on display just before the start of the 100m sprint final

Push to improve

Something that is often overlooked when we talk about sporting performance is the importance of the role of the mind in training. This was picked up in the recent BBC documentary series: Faster, Higher, Stronger. Athletes have to be mentally strong and ready to train every day for their event, pushing their limits almost every training session, disciplined in their diet and motivated enough to get up and do it all again the next day. It is this daily grind that is the building blocks of any athlete’s achievements, no matter their sport.

Mental Pressure

Mental pressure for athletes grows the bigger the stage of competition is…

This year at Wimbledon, we saw just how strong Roger Federer is mentally, coming back from 2 sets to love down early on in the tournament and finding his best tennis and performances right when it mattered most, in the semi-finals and final against Britain’s own Andy Murray. Even though many said he would feel the pressure of being in his first Grand Slam final in over 2 years, Roger was able to focus his mind on himself and his performance. It is this mental strength that can make all the difference between winning and coming close.

Mental strength though is not just about self belief, or being able to push your body to train each day. It includes being able to make the right decisions at the right time. The Olympic 1,500m race in 1984 illustrates the importance of the combination of athlete and mental strength. Seb Coe, the reigning Olympic champion, lined up to defend his Olympic title against Steve Ovett (the world record holder) and Steve Cram (Reigning world champion).  His training leading up to the games ensured he had the stamina of a marathon runner and the explosive speed of a sprinter when needed. Physically he was ready to win. However, his mind played a massive role, ensuring that tactically he made the right decisions in the race and he executed the right strategy that would see him retain his Olympic title. This is even more impressive since he ran a poor 800m only a few days before. All of this he was able to achieve under the microscope of the world on the biggest athletic stage there can be.

Seb Coe strikes for Gold in the 1,500m final in LA Olympics, 1984

Seb Coe strikes for Gold in the 1,500m final in LA Olympics, 1984

At the Olympic Games this year, athletes like Usain Bolt will feel the world’s eyes on them as they line up for their own personal events. They must remain mentally strong and mentally focused on delivering the performance of their lives. This can be hard to do, especially when as an individual so much is placed on this one single performance. Many of the athletes would have been training for the past 4 years solidly for the Olympic Games, if not much longer, and to know that all that hard work can be rewarded or for nothing, can be all too much for some.

Techniques to stay mentally strong

Hypnosis in sport can help athletes focus, and increase their concentration levels, blocking out other distractions. That’s going to be important for every single athlete at the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer.

Hypnosis techniques can be used to help improve performance by considering the athletes pre-performance, performance and post performance attitude.

Pre-performance attitude helps athletes train hard and to work hard on their sport, focusing their efforts to get the most from their training regime. Performance attititude ensures a good strong mental attitude during the athletes sporting event. It helps them put into effect all the skills they have learned from all their previous training sessions, and helps the athlete produce their best performances when it matters most. Post performance attitude helps an athlete reflect and learn from their performances, addressing areas that can be improved and remembering areas that went well.

There are also a number of hypnosis approaches that help athletes:

  • The inner game: This is mental practice and includes mental visualisation of what the body is about to do
  • Direct suggestions: This is where the athlete focuses on their best performance to date and remembers that, keeping it in their mind.
  • Staying in the moment: This helps athletes focus on the moment as opposed to being distracted (something that is becomes increasingly important at bigger sporting events)

Positive thinking

As the summer of sport continues, and we sit by and watch the Olympics unfold, keep in mind the pressures they must feel and try to imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes at that moment.  The difference between winning that Gold medal could all come down to mental strength…

Emotion Blog Series #3: Anger and Annoyance

19 Jul

Unhealthy Anger is an unhealthy negative emotion provoked by holding an unhealthy belief or attitude about  i) you or another breaking your non moral rule  or ii) a threat to your self esteem or  iii) you experiencing frustration.

Healthy Anger or Annoyance is a healthy negative emotion provoked by holding a belief or attitude about i) you or another breaking your non moral rule or ii) a threat to your self esteem or iii) you experiencing frustration.

Anger is an unhealthy emotion but a natural one. Annoyance is a healthy anger

Anger is a common emotion and we all experience it.  There are two types though; healthy and unhealthy.  In this blog we will use the Anger to mean unhealthy Anger and Annoyance to mean healthy Anger

Both Anger and Annoyance can be intense.  You can feel Anger or Annoyance with yourself, with another person or with life and the world. 

You can feel Anger or Annoyance about all sorts of things.  The following are typical triggers.   This is by no means a complete list of triggers.

  • Rejection
  • Unfairness
  • Disagreement
  • Lateness
  • Rudeness
  • Criticism
  • Failure
  • Insensitivity
  • Hassles e.g. traffic jams, weather etc
  • Having an emotional problem
  • And so on

 

How do you know if you are feeling Anger or Annoyance?

The easiest way to understand your emotions is to check your thoughts and your behaviour or behavioural tendencies when feeling the emotion. 

When you feel Anger towards someone you will tend to exaggerate the actions of the other person, who has broken your personal rule.  You will think that the other person had malicious intent.  You will think that you are absolutely right and the other person is definitely wrong and you will not see the other person’s point of view at all.  You mind will be focused on revenge.

When you feel Anger towards you will like attacking the other persona physically or verbally.  You will feel like paying them back e.g. ignoring them or staying silent.  You will feel like recruiting allies against the other person.  Apart from feeling like doing all of these things, sometimes you will actually do them.

If you are feeling Anger with yourself you will tend to be extremely hard on yourself, call yourself ‘idiot’, ‘stupid’ and other self damning words.  You will feel like punishing yourself or you will indeed punish yourself.

If feeling Anger due to life frustrations then you will feel high levels of frustrations, be damning of the life and situations or God.  You may feel like taking your frustration on furniture, dashboard of your car.

When you feel Annoyance with someone your thoughts will be more balanced and you are less likely to see malicious intent behind someone’s actions.  You will be more open to the possibility that you may be wrong, able to listen to the other person’s point of view.  You mind will not be pre occupied with seeking revenge.

When feeling Annoyance you will feel like talking and behaving assertively but it will be with the right intent of solving the conflict.  You will feel like asking the other person to make changes to their behaviour but you do not demand it. 

When you feel Annoyed with yourself you thoughts will be focused on the wrong thing that you did but without damning yourself.  Your mind set will be accepting of the fact that some mistake was made but you also see yourself as an imperfect person who will learn and move on.

If you are feeling Annoyance with life’s hassles, your mind set will be accepting of the fact that there are hassles and frustrations in life but you also think that you can cope with it even though it is a pain in the backside.

 

Tips

Accept yourself as fallible and imperfect.

Accept that other’s as fallible and imperfect.

Accept that hassles and frustrations exist and are part of life and that you can cope with them even though you find them challenging.

Manage your expectations and stress levels during this Summer of Sport!

13 Jul

So, the 2012 Olympics are almost upon us! The event will be met with mixed emotions from many people as the ramifications impact on our everyday lives. To some, the initial reaction will be one of panic, as the worry of trying to get to work through the inevitable congestion hits home. Can I cope with the crowded trains, will I get to work late, and will I be able to get home to watch a particular event on TV? What about if a tube breaks down or my bus doesn’t even arrive or is packed? There seem to be 101 things to worry about.

Manage your travel during the Olympic games

Albert Ellis said we generally disturb ourselves about three major things

  • I must do well, greatly, perfectly, outstandingly and must win the approval of others or else it’s awful, I can’t stand it and I’m no good and I’ll never do anything well.  This can lead to anxiety, depression, despair and a sense of worthlessness, jealousy, hurt, unhealthy envy, guilt, shame and embarrassment and unhealthy anger with the self.
  • Other people must do the right thing or be a certain way or treat me well, or kindly or considerately and put me in the centre of their attention or else it’s horrible, unbearable and proves they are bad and no good.  This can lead to unhealthy anger, rage, hostility resentment, jealously, envy.

But the Olympics are likely to trigger this 3rd attitude in some people. 

  • Life must be easy, without discomfort or inconvenience or any hassle otherwise it’s horrible and unbearable.  This leads to low frustration tolerance and unhealthy anger.

 When we think about this third thing, we understand that it is not realistic, and the important thing is how we deal with more difficult situations.

In the case of transport hassles around London 2012, there are many ways we can cope with this and prepare ourselves. We do not want to feel frustrated and angry for the two weeks of the Olympics.  Basically, we need to manage our expectations and plan in advance:

  • Accept the hassle and inconvenience because we know it will happen. 
  • Remember, it’s only temporary and that it will come to an end. We can tolerate and stand the hassle. It does not kill us. It’s just a hassle.
  • Plan in advance and allow extra time so that you do not feel rushed all the time
  • Try to look at the positive side of the Olympics. After all, it is a major event for the country. A lot of people have worked very hard to make them a success and every effort has been made to minimise the impact on the transport system.
  • If you don’t support the Olympics in London and worry about the hassle, then focus on the fact that it will all come to an end and that you can stand the hassle of the games even  though you do not agree with them.

So, focus on the benefits of the Olympic Games, the enjoyment it will bring to millions of people, the efforts and successes of the athletes and the two weeks will pass all too quickly!

Emotion Blog Series #2: Depression and Sadness

5 Jul

Depression is the second emotion we are looking at in our series on Emotions, there are eight altogether along with their “healthy counterparts” that are identified in the Ellis Model of RECBT.

Depression: An unhealthy negative emotion

Depression (an unhealthy negative emotion) is mostly provoked by holding unhealthy beliefs or attitudes (Demands) about loss or failure.

Its healthy counterpart is Sadness and occurs when we hold a healthy belief or attitude about loss or failure.

Depression is an unhealthy negative emotion and we can be depressed about many things.  Some examples are:

 

  • Loss or failure of job
  • Loss or failure of relationship
  • Death
  • Loss of freedom
  • Loss of control
  • Failure of success

               

How do you know if you are depressed or sad?

Depression is experienced by many people in a life time usually in reaction to external circumstances and it has a distinctive thought and behaviour pattern that we can identify.   When you feel depressed your thoughts become preoccupied with negative experiences and are unable to find the good or positive about anything in life. Thoughts have a historical focus with a tendency to remember old past losses or failures and rumination becomes more and more part of your thought processes.  If you are experiencing Depression you tend think you are a failure as a person and that in the future there is no hope so a pervading sense of helplessness and hopelessness is experienced. 

When you are depressed you feel like avoiding the world and the people in it, withdrawing into your head rather than going out; you pull away from people and life in general.   You may not feel like getting out of bed or going to work or meeting your friends.  Looking after yourself or your surroundings becomes unimportant.  When you are feeling depressed you are not interested in looking after yourself and, in severe depression, not bothering to wash or get dressed. You don’t feel like washing up or hoovering, tidying may become a thing of the past.   

When you are depressed you have a tendency to behave in destructive ways to try and avoid the feeling of depression.  It can lead to over eating or under eating, using alcohol or drugs to excess to avoid those feelings.

The thoughts experienced when feeing sadness, in contrast to depression, are more balanced.  You are able to think about both positive and negative aspects of the loss or failure. When you are experiencing sadness your thoughts do not remain focused in the past and previous failures instead you think that you will be able to deal with the current loss appropriately.  The thoughts of helplessness and beliefs that you are failure are not present in sadness.  Your thoughts are helpful and hopeful.

When you are sad you will tend to share your feelings and express what is happening to those around you.  You remain able to look after yourself and your environment recognising you have experienced a loss or failure and take constructive and helpful actions to support yourself through the experience.

If you recognise the thoughts and behavioural patterns of depression consider the changes that would support experiencing healthy sadness and begin to think and act in accordance with them. For example, if you are thinking everything is hopeless, recognise you are thinking this and you can begin to challenge that thought as you check reality and begin to recognise not everything is hopeless and continue to challenge your thoughts consistently, even if you don’t feel like it.  If getting out of bed and getting out of the house is your problem set yourself small achievable goals, like getting out of bed and taking a shower, eat something healthy, and do them consistently.

It will feel uncomfortable to start with but each day it gets easier, just as the same as when you learnt how to ride a bicycle, tie your shoes or make eggs for the first time.

Tips

1)      Make some goals

2)      Identify and take some immediate action to make your goals happen.

3)      Identify the regular actions to make the goals happen and do them.

4)      Stop telling yourself you are “Rubbish or the world is”

5)       Remember “you matter” and you are part of the human race which is fallible and chemically amazing at the same time.

6)      We generally think ourselves into misery, begin to change the way you think – unhealthy thoughts are normally rigid/illogical/inconsistent with reality and unhelpful healthy thoughts are – flexible, logical, consistent with reality and helpful

7)      Seek help if you continue to feel miserable.