Post By: Rachel Hoeft, M.A. | Wednesday, May 13, 2020

sport psychology performance STRESS IDENTITY

Often we find ourselves in situations where we hesitate, freeze, or breakdown without quite knowing exactly what happened. If this becomes a recurring situation, there is likely a subconscious block or an issue that is being left unaddressed. When this happens, it is necessary to take a step back and analyze what is going on in all facets of your life that might be impacting your performance.

Places to Look

1. Relationships. The way that we interact with our supporters, role models, teammates, and ourselves may impact our actions. If a person we look up to is disapproving of something we are doing and enjoying, we may experience difficulty making a decision that we think goes against their beliefs or approval. In this instance, we need to reflect on what is important to us. We should not depend on other people's approval to create our own happiness. Find what is right for you.

Having said this, I understand this is easier said than done. This may take a long time to differentiate between the deep-seated beliefs you have been taught and what you truly want. Find a confidant that you trust to help you work through this, like a Mindurance certified mental performance coach. Sometimes it's easier for people on the outside to see what is going on right in front of our noses.

2. Fears. Sometimes mental blocks are our way of inadvertently avoiding facing our fears. Many times we are afraid of failure, of disappointment, of embarrassment. If this sounds like you, it is necessary to identify where the fear came from, how it developed, and acknowledge the progress you have made. At this point, it is critical that we fully acknowledge and address the fear, even by saying it aloud. By giving the fear a name and pointing it out, it is much easier to make peace with it and highlight strategies.

Then, take time to acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes and it's how we improve. It's cliche, it's cheesy, I know. But you know that it's true. We all have made mistakes before, and we improved because we learned from it. And guess what--We will continue to make mistakes. Having the courage to face your fear will set you free.

3. Expectations. Expectations are a tricky one because they may be the result of our relationships and our fears. We may have high expectations of ourselves, other people may expect great things from us, and we may be afraid of not reaching these standards. But fretting over “what ifs” and catastrophizing will not make things better. In fact, the more time we spend creating failure stories in our heads, the less time we have for cultivating the positive energy needed for us to succeed. The way to face those expectations head-on is to put yourself in a mindset where you view these standards as a challenge to overcome. Your Mindurance performance enhancement on demand coach can help you get there.

Your Mental Block Toolkit

Identifying your mental blocks must be accompanied with an armory of mental skills that you can use to break them down. Otherwise, you've identified these negative feelings, emotions, and thoughts, and given yourself all the more reason to obsess over them. These mental skills tools may be just what you need!

1. Journaling. Reflective journaling is a useful tool for analyzing our actions and the emotions associated with them. By writing down what we did (or didn't do) and how we felt in the process, we can identify the activities that made the most impact on us. Once we narrow down these triggers, we can better prepare ourselves for how to deal with them again, which empowers us to act differently, or at least consciously.

2. Positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is an amazing mental skill to practice. It improves confidence, emotional control, and can guide us through uncomfortable situations. When we encounter mental blocks, we know that something needs to be done, but may not be sure exactly how to deal with it or even address it in the first place. Positive self-talk guides us through the process of taking our first step of getting us moving, and all the steps thereafter to keep up the momentum. The great thing about positive self-talk is that it also helps us to redirect our thoughts that might be getting in the way of our performance. If we are thinking about other people, for example, a positive self-talk routine may be exactly what we need to get our head back into the game and focused on the task at hand.

It is important to note that this is positive self-talk, meaning that we need to speak kindly to ourselves for it to work. Negative self-talk can be detrimental to our abilities and even exacerbate the thoughts currently impacting our performance.

3. Breathing Techniques. Sometimes the physiological responses we experience can send our brain out of control, preventing us from focusing on what matters. When this happens, it is useful to adopt a calming breathing technique. Box breathing is an example of one technique that also helps us to redirect our thoughts and calm our minds. Box breathing starts with inhalation of 4 seconds, pausing for 4 seconds, exhaling for 4 seconds, and pausing for another 4 seconds, thus completing the box.

This method slows down our heart rate and allows for deeper breathing, helping us sort out the thoughts rushing through our mind. When we take the time to breathe and redirect our attention positively, we can take back control of our focus and zone-in on what is important to us at this moment.

Mental blocks are tough to overcome, especially because we may not realize that something so obvious is the root of the problem. As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite quotes is, “You can't see the forest from within the trees.” Taking time to step back and reflect, either alone or with a supporter like a Mindurance Provider, can really help you to break down the mental barriers impeding your abilities. Once you take back control, the world is your oyster.