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How Mindfulness Training Can Reduce Sports Anxiety

Mindfulness occurs when one is conscious of their surroundings and focusing on the present moment. It involves meditation that consists of being aware of what you are sensing and feeling in an exact moment. Just like any sport, mindfulness takes practice. Although mindfulness training may be a fairly new concept, it has been shown to help athletes not only on the ice or playing field, but in their everyday lives as well!

What is mindfulness training?

Mindfulness training consists of exercises that train athletes or people to focus their attention to the present moment. There are many ways to train mindfulness, some of which include techniques such as yoga, visualization and meditation. Mindfulness training helps the athlete become more self aware and conscious of their feelings, thoughts and body sensations, rather than acting instinctively, while unaware of the possible motives that may be driving their decisions. Mindfulness training also helps athletes improve their focus and concentration and most importantly can help  them increase their overall enjoyment of their sport, ultimately reducing burnout. 

The benefits don’t stop there. Mindfulness training increases the connection between the brain and body which enhances physical efficiency. Mindfulness training also helps with managing physical discomfort, improving athletes’ resilience, increases endurance and recovery time, boosts confidence and ameliorates psychological flexibility. This is why meditation is a popular method of mindfulness training and has become regular practice for many professional athletes and their teams.  

If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe. You will feel it’s rhythm. Go with this flow. Happiness lies ahead. Meditation is key.”  – Buddha

As you can see there are numerous benefits to mindfulness training. But it gets better! Practicing mindfulness has been shown to help athletes maintain and even reduce their sport anxiety through training and routines. But you may be wondering, what is sports anxiety? In that case, keep reading!

What is Sports Anxiety?  

Sports anxiety occurs when an athlete has the propensity to view competitive situations as threatening and responds to these situations with angst and tension. Competitive athletes are constantly under pressure.  This pressure can cause their motor skills which are usually automatic to become impaired. This can impact athletes at every level, including  professional athletes, leading them into a downward spiral of making mistakes on skills they have been practicing for years. Further to that, they can then become overwhelmed with additional pressure and  fear that it may continue to happen.This makes them more likely to mess up again, ultimately causing sport anxiety.  

There are both mental and physical components to sports anxiety. 

Somatic Anxiety focuses on the physical components as it relates to a focus on the physical symptoms experienced, and is found to predict poor performance under pressure. This is caused when an athlete’s focus is shifted away from what they should be doing and onto body sensations that are not conducive to performance. 

Cognitive Anxiety focuses on the mental component while it contributes to concentration disruption. It has been found to be more common in females and older athletes. Cognitive anxiety is the length to which an athlete worries or has negative thoughts that include fear of failure and loss of self-esteem and confidence. 

How Mindfulness Training Helps Athletes Reduce Sport Anxiety

Athletes train to improve their physical skills and when they are successful in training their sport-confidence is increased. When an athlete implements mindfulness into their everyday life, they become aware of their stressors and triggers, so they can reflect on the situation and regulate their emotions. By regulating the athletes reactions to their potential stressors and triggers, the discerned stress is decreased. Being self – aware of one’s breathing will also help the athlete, as it decreases their heart rate due to having a calming effect on their sympathetic nervous systems. Athletes with a lower resting heart rate have the ability to  improve their performance by increasing their endurance and having more efficient heart function. Once athletes become aware of this ability to modify their sympathetic nervous system, it can lead to a greater sense of self control, ultimately reducing their overall anxiety.

KEY TIP: Self Awareness = Improved Self Control

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