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How Detrimental is Anxiety in Sports?

“Anxiety is excitement, without breath.” To me, this quote eloquently sums up the nature of anxiety and how harmful it can be to an athlete. How can an athlete, in any sport expect to perform at their optimal level without breathing properly?! But that is exactly what happens- when people become nervous, their natural reaction is to shorten, if not hold their breath entirely.

When our breath becomes more shallow, our heart rate increases, which then causes us to be concerned about what is going on in our body. As we worry about our increasing anxiety, our movements become quicker and occur with less though, which can be detrimental. Imagine a basketball player whose heart is pounding so fast that instead of taking their time at the free throw line and shooting with confidence, they speed up and take the shot before settling into his/her comfort zone. It’s not hard to imagine- we see it all the time- the shot sails wide, leaving fans and teammates with their hands up wondering what went wrong.

Relaxation is an important component of sports psychology, and can be taught in various different ways, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, imagery, cue words, and neurofeedback. The psychologist and the athlete will work together to determine which approach works best for the individual athlete. If you have been working with a sports psychologist on one of the above techniques and didn’t find it helpful, don’t be afraid to speak up, there are plenty of approaches and it is about finding the one that you are most comfortable with and is the most effective for you! In your treatment it is important for you to be an active participant- it is your athletic career after all.

If you feel you may be struggling with sports anxiety, learn how MVP Mentality Sports Psychology can help. Our office is centrally located to serve Miami-Dade, Broward, and the Palm Beach counties. Call 954-317-0551 today and learn how MVP Mentality Sports Psychology can help you move past anxiety. Dr. Lauren Hennessy uses a Neurofeedback therapy approach that has proven to enhance concentration as well as optimize athletic performance. Call today to see how MVP Mentality Sports Psychology can help you!

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