Mar
13

Mental Tools to Manage Stress

“You’re the only one that can put pressure on yourself… No one else can put pressure on you. It’s self-inflicted. For me, I just want to go out and play football.”—- Maurice Jones-Drew

mental-toughness-stressed-pHow many times in a conversation about football have you heard the phrase, “It’s all mental”?

Well in one way or another, it’s true. A mind that is not under control is a mind that makes mistakes. Mistakes that could lose a game. Extreme stress causes a cluttered football mind. Stress is a helpful tool when used correctly; when not used correctly, stress can cause you to lose a lot of games.

Young athletes under extreme levels of stress make simple mistakes; it’s not their fault, it’s simply how human beings operate. Under extreme stress, your heart rate elevates and you began to lose complex motor skills, like throwing and passing.

Just the right amount of stress puts you in the right mindset; it gets you in the “zone,” as some sports psychologists for football say. A player can “mess up” from a lot of different things, but mainly from not being in the moment. Not being in the moment is a mind that’s in confusion; when you’re thinking about how your losing or thinking about a past play, you’ll probably make another bad play.

Stress management is one of the keys to helping athletes be successful. Professional athletes go through rigorous advanced training in order to get to where they are capable of doing things at an advanced level with ease under stress.

At a very fundamental level, one of the ways to tamper stress and slow the heart rate down is deep breathing. Controlled deep breathing helps to send signals to the sympathetic nervous system to slow down the overactive heart. This is one of the reasons meditation is so successful if use correctly.

What’s one of the first things a professional athlete does before a free throw? They take deep breaths. When they walk out, they take deep breaths to slow their heart rate down, concentration and focus.

Focusing attention on breathing has been shown to help mind rumination. A mind ruminating is a mind out of control. When you have 30 seconds left in a football game, and you’re down by a point, the last thing you want is a mind that is all over the place. You have more important things to worry about — like winning the game.

Meditation can take many different forms and it is not always about clearing the mind or getting rid of thoughts. It can also mean focusing the mind on a particular thought or group of thoughts so that other concerns fall away.

In the case of using meditation to improve sports performance, the goal of the practice is actually visualization. Focusing the mind on the sports activity and the physical accomplishment can help improve your football confidence and mental toughness.

According to football psychology, the performance of an athlete on the field is actually the result of what the individual thinks in his or her head. When the mind does not visualize a positive result or a positive change, then the body will not have the same performance as it has when the mind focuses on winning or gaining that positive result.

Visualization is about the power of focusing on the goal and reaching for it one step at a time. By visualizing a better run time, making a pass from a farther distance or outsmarting the other team, it is easier to actually accomplish the task. The mind remembers the patterns that are visualized so that the body can put the idea into practice on the field.

Managing your stress is a process similar to that of any athletic pursuit. It could offer you the cutting edge over your competition if done well.

*Download the free mental game assessment and get started on Improving your Mental Game in Football

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