Edition 61 (November 2017)

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Mental Toughness Digest for Sport & Performance. 

“Anticipation Anxiety”

By Jennifer Miccoli (PSY0002113751)

"Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunshine" - Benjamin Franklin

"Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere" - Glenn Turner, New Zealand Cricketer

As sport and performance psychologists we often get asked how to deal with nerves and anticipation anxiety. Anxiety is generally described as an emotional state of feeling stressed or worried. It is often characterised by real physical symptoms including fast heartbeats, sweaty hands and shortness of breath just to name a few. Anticipation anxiety can be described as an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness or worry about something that may or may not happen in the future.

Pre-competition anxiety is one of the most common challenges in modern sports psychology. Every athlete will experience some kind of stress or worry before a competition. This anxiety can, and typically does, have an impact on performance; hence learning to manage it via various mental techniques is particularly useful for anyone looking to compete at a high level. It is important to note that different people respond differently to situations and even the most seasoned athlete can experience anticipation anxiety. Although “sheer experience” can play a role in managing pre-competition jitters athletes can improve their mental toughness through specific mental methods.

Some of you may be familiar with the Metuf ™mental method of “Controlling It”. In the Controlling It method we can help identify areas of performance that we can and can’t control. In other words, there are certain factors that are simply not worth stressing over. For example, in most (but not all) sports it is not worth worrying about the weather and we refer to it as an “uninfluenceable”. Interestingly all the factors identified in the research that tend to cause anticipation anxiety are uncontrollable (either uninfluenceable or only slightly influenceable).

Of course the one common thought component for all those who experience anticipation anxiety is the future – in other words the anxiety is about something yet to occur.

I put this question to you (feel free to reply in the comments section below or email me directly at jen@metuf.com) – is that future event you’re getting so nervous about controllable, influenceable or uninfluenceable?

Many of you may not be familiar with George Halas, he was a player, coach and owner of the Chicago Bears NFL team. He was one of the co-founder of the NFL and was later inducted into the Hall of Fame. He became a pioneer on and off the field, was one of the first to introduce daily team practices and analyse opponents to find weaknesses. He believed in integrity and honesty but was also remembered for a famous quote: “Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.”

There will always be things that we cannot control or have little or no influence over, no matter how hard we try, and just like a rocking chair, it will get us nowhere.

Feel free to share your thoughts / comments / questions below

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One thought on “Edition 61 (November 2017)”

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    Fantastic analysis on the anticipation and the subsequent anxiety. I fully agree with you and also you very rightly pointed only sheer experience will help to tackle it professionally in most cases. But am relaxed to know that every one goes through jitters. Thanks

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