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8300 Health Park Suite 201
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At Carolina Performance in Raleigh, our mission as psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists is to enhance the performance of our clients, resulting in a smarter approach to sports, a more effective work life, and an improved general well-being. We use mental training techniques to build upon existing skills, develop mental game plans, achieve individual and team goals, and maximize potential. 

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At Carolina Performance in Raleigh, our mission as psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists is to enhance the performance of our clients, resulting in a smarter approach to sports, a more effective work life, and an improved general well-being. We use mental training techniques to build upon existing skills, develop mental game plans, achieve individual and team goals, and maximize potential.

Filtering by Tag: stress

Stress & Injury

eric morse

Exercise is good, right? Whether you are an Olympic athlete, a weekend warrior, or just a casual walker, exercise has been shown to have all sorts of beneficial effects on our health and well-being. (Need convincing? Check out here, here, and here!).

One of the biggest ways that stress can impact our performance is when it takes us out of the game--when we sustain an injury. Injuries can take away all of these positive effects, causing physical, psychological, and even financial harm. And there’s more: researchers have found that there are psychological and social causes of injury, too. Stress, certain personality characteristics, and poorly developed coping abilities have all been shown to contribute to an increased risk of injury.

One of the primary models used in this area of sport psychology is the Stress and Injury Model. Looking at the model, think of each of the arrows in the model as an interaction between factors. The core of the model is the “Stress Response” and is made of two major components:

1.     Our perception of a situation and our ability to respond to the situation (the cognitive appraisal), and
2.     How our mind and body react to our perceptions (physiological/attentional changes)

These two components—perception and response—make up our immediate response to any given situation. The boxes above and below also exert an effect on the stress response.

In our last blog, we talked about two of these factors: stressors and interventions. Stressors include the major life events, daily hassles, and even past injury history; things that weigh on one’s mind and distract from the task at hand. The cognitive, somatic, and other relaxation exercises are just a few interventions that can assist with reducing stress levels.

Personality and coping resources make up the rest of the model. Through research, we know that personality traits like anxiety, anger, dominance, and competitiveness have all been linked to heightened injury risk. These personality traits may serve as distractors to performance or they may cause an athlete to put their body in more risky situations. Rather than view these traits as negatives, it is important that we recognize our own personality traits and keep them in mind as we are participating in exercise or sport. Finally, coping resources come into play; these factors include mental skills, stress management, and social support. For anyone undergoing stress, it is important to have a support system—someone to chat with or a teammate to work through problems with. You don’t always have to deal with stress on your own!

Injuries aren’t the only way that stress can inhibit performance. While they are a problem for athletes and exercisers, they may not be the biggest problem for stress at work or school. Next time, we’ll talk more about some other ways that stress impacts our performance!

Identifying & Eliminating Stress

eric morse

Stress: unless you live a truly blessed life, everyone suffers from it. While stress is a different experience for everyone, sport psychologists have had a long interest in how athletes encounter, feel, avoid, and cope with stress. Although stress most definitely isn’t limited to athletes, much of the research done in these studies can be used by anyone!

It is important to consider the more common root causes of stress. One popular model in sport psychology is the stress and injury model from Andersen and Williams (1988). This model splits everyday stressors into two main categories: major life events and daily hassles.

Major life events are significant, often life-changing experiences like a divorce, the death of a loved one, or possibly a lost job. Research has shown that these events can play on our minds not only through anxiety and depression, but they can narrow our attention, contribute to sleeping problems, and even deplete our coping resources over time.

Daily hassles includes situations like spilt coffee, that annoying coworker, and even bad traffic. While certainly not as serious as major life events, the additive effect of these minor stressors throughout our day can have similar effects: anxiety, depression, and an inability to concentrate (which can lead to even more frustration through the day!).

The real question: How can we better cope with this stress, reducing our risk for these harmful effects? Sport psychologists have identified a few important ways we can decrease our stress levels and our body’s response to that stress. The best part is that anyone can use these strategies!

Cognitive techniques can help you manage stress by targeting your thoughts and perceptions like worry, anxiety, or pessimism. These strategies often help us react more calmly to stressors. Visualization and imagery are two popular cognitive techniques, and positive self-talkcognitive restructuring, and refocusing can also help calm your mind!

Somatic techniques attempt to calm the body’s response to stress. Classic examples are deep or rhythmic breathing. More recently, progressive muscle relaxation and biofeedback training have seen an increase in popularity.

There are also more advanced techniques, like Benson’s relaxation response and cognitive affective stress management training, which target both the cognitive and somatic aspects of stress.

Decreasing stress can have a huge effect on your performance, whether you are trying to improve results at work, in sports, in public speaking, in school, or in any other area of life! In our upcoming posts, we’ll talk more about how stress can impact your performance.

Jordan Long
Carolina Performance Intern
Master’s Student, Sport & Exercise Psychology at UNC-Greensboro
Correspondence can be directed to: jormlong@gmail.com

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