I am often asked what the implications are of stress, anxiety and pressure on performance.
What research shows us, is that when someone is experiencing stress, they can't and don't perform at their best.
What we see is that when we resolve the issues, the individual starts scoring more goals, taking more wickets, scoring more tries or consistently setting better lap times – that’s the simple answer.
As a Psychotherapist, who specialises in extreme pressure environments, I often work with individuals who are under immense pressure, and if they aren't getting the right psychological support, it really can impact their performance.
I work with clients across every aspect of their mental game. This style of working isn’t about giving advice or telling you how to do things differently – this is about creating the ultimate mindset, utilising a unique combination of Neuropsychology and Neuroplasticity, the brain's natural ability to change to achieve it.
Much research has been devoted to understanding how psychological state affects sport performance in competitive settings.
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Elevating your performance
Many high-achieving sports professionals already employ coaches and personal trainers to support their mental game.
George Russell has spoken about his mental health and the important role that psychology played in his preparations for the 2021 Formula 1 season, and says seeking professional help was a “great” step in his development as a driver.
Heading into his third season with Williams, Russell has faced his fair share of adversity in F1 having failed to score a point for the team in 2019 and 2020, and then coming agonisingly close to a debut victory at Sakhir in 2020 having stepped in for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes – before pit stop problems and a late puncture dropped him down the order. To help deal with those disappointments, he has used a psychologist.
He was quoted saying "That allowed me to come back stronger, fitter, healthier than ever, and I’ll be able to perform off the back of it.
I think so many people, men particularly, see psychology as a weakness, which is absolutely not the case. Your mind is the most powerful tool in your body. Ultimately I’m a high performing athlete and if you want to achieve your maximum potential, you need to be in the right frame of mind."
In general a Psychologist will usually work with you using a number of techniques including basic things such as visualisation and NLP techniques.
Sarah however works with unique combination of neuropsychology and neuroplasticity that achieves peak brain performance. Is able to effectively 'wipe the slate clean' from any set backs. This is invaluable, as set backs can cause problems in the future as both fear and anxiety sets in. The brain starts to foresee failure happening again, which of course can be hugely detrimental as you then start to imagine a negative outcome and you actualise it - thus essentially creating it. This is precisely what happens when someone gets in a slump or has a bad run - they are visualising failing, and consequently fail.
Sarah is able to work with you to create new neural pathways to respond differently to any given situation, in particular high pressure environments.
This regulates their emotions, which in turn optimises brain function to operate more effectively.
this not only builds confidence, removes limiting self beliefs and values, create more self-belief, dissolve anxiety, improve focus and concentration and create the ability to control emotions in the key moments.
At every point the results can be felt instantly. Tangible differences are immediate.
If you are nervous, distracted, over-whelmed, over-thinking your game, unable to recover from mistakes, trying too hard or lacking in confidence this smashes through of all that to get you in the best mental state to get your personal best when it matters the most.
Anxiety In Sport
When things aren’t going your way, you can start to really feel the pressure, and maybe begin to experience a crisis in confidence. Once this happens it can be a slippery slope. The fear and anxiety increases, and this can have a huge impact on your game, and then unfortunately with the way the brain works, it becomes a vicious cycle.
In professional sport, the pressure is immense – and this is often not appreciated by others.
The pressure comes from both external and internal influences. External pressure, such as from the manger, other team members, your family, the fans. And internal pressure, which is often more significant, from you yourself.
And If you are a perfectionist, it can be absolute torture.
So how do you fix it – this is where I come in.
You will no doubt, already have a Performance Coach, who will work with you on some of these areas, but that will only be at a conscious level. So maybe just talking about how you feel. They may utilise techniques to help manage the pressure and the feelings – but obviously that is just ‘managing’ it - it won’t stop them actually happening.
'Fear' of losing, 'Fear' of looking stupid, 'Fear' that you aren't as good as you believe you are, ‘Fear of getting dropped’, ‘ Fear of messing up’, ‘Fear of failing’, so 'Fear' of letting people down - the common theme here is obvious.
Essentially everything negative in sport is driven by fear. If you don’t deal with it, it will lead to anxiety, and anxiety can spread to all areas of your life – it can start to take over, and cause real problems.
So this is where I come in. We work together and stop the anxiety and other issues in their tracks.
We work with the brain processes - and that is a really important distinction here, in that we are working with the brain, not the mind. It is all based on neuroscience, but it is actually quite simple to achieve when you know how.
As Jack Nicklaus once observed, fear is the golfer’s greatest enemy. It can turn you from a brilliant shot-maker on the practice range into an incompetent hack on the course. Most golfers understand this, but do not have the tools to overcome it.
Understanding the source of an athlete’s fear and its physiological and neurological impact on performance, means we can not just overcome it, but destroy the fear to become a winner.
Be able to master one’s body and one's mind, means you can achieve your ultimate potential. Through concrete confidence and mastery you can perform at your best – even under the most extreme pressure.
If you want to find out more about how you can elevate your individual performance or your team's performance, please do get in touch using the contact button or page.
You can also click here to head over to our dedicated site for professional sport.