What are the possible effects on performance when a performer enters a major competition with a high level of anxiety? Discuss the strategies and techniques the performer may use to manage anxiety in the build up to the competition. Anxiety is the negative aspect of experiencing stress. Anxiety is the worry and unpleasant feeling experienced because of the fear or possibility of failure. Anxiety is seen to cause a negative impact on performance especially when levels are high. Anxiety can cause many side effects.
These effects of anxiety are split into two categories: Cognitive and somatic anxiety. Cognitive anxiety is the thoughts, nervousness, apprehension or worry that a performer has about their lack of ability to complete a task successfully. As cognitive anxiety increases performance decreases. This is known as a negative linear relationship. The higher the level of cognitive anxiety suffered the worse your performance becomes. This happens because the cognitive anxiety causes the performer to become agitated and over worried about their performance.
This then leads to the performer too loose concentration and focus on their performance therefore causing a decline. Somatic anxiety is the physiological responses to a situation where a performer feels that they may be unable to cope; symptoms include increased heart rate and breathing rate, sweaty palms, increased muscle tension and the feeling of nausea. This can then make it harder for the performer to move as freely as desired and put them off whilst competing.
The increased heart rate and breathing rate can however prove to be beneficial to the performer. This is because it gets the performer ready to compete from the very beginning before they have even begun to start exercising. Somatic anxiety therefore has an inverted U theory relationship to performance. This is because there is an optimal amount which will provide optimal performance. Once the optimal amount of somatic anxiety is passed however performance will gradually decrease due to the symptoms such as increased muscle tension.
There are many strategies and techniques that can be used to manage anxiety. There are cognitive techniques which involve relaxing the mind and there are somatic techniques which involve relaxing your body. One cognitive technique that can be used is Imagery. This is where the performer creates mental images in their head to escape the immediate effects of stress. Another cognitive technique is visualisation. Here the performer goes through the process of creating a mental image of what they want to happen or feel in their performance.
These two techniques are also similar to mental reversal which can also be used to manage a performer’s level of anxiety. Here you run through a successful, controlled performances in your mind before you compete helping you to concentrate on solely your performance. Attentional control and cue utilisation is another management technique which a performer is able to use. Here the performer maintains concentration on appropriate cues therefore reducing errors caused by distraction. Positive self talk is another cognitive technique that can be used.
Here the performer would use a phrase such as focus. This will then cause the performer to concentrate and focus on their performance whilst also developing positive thoughts about their actions. The performer may also use thought-stopping to reduce levels of cognitive anxiety. In this process you condition the mind to think of alternatives to the anxiety-causing negative thought. For example you would use a physical action such as clenching your fist to divert your attention away from the anxiety. Biofeedback is an example of a somatic technique.
Here the performer is monitored electronically on any physiological variables such as heart rate and sweating (using a galvanic skin response). Once these levels rise because of anxiety then the performer will think of pleasant thoughts to then reduce anxiety. The performer can also use breathing control to reduce anxiety. This involves diaphragmatic breathing (breathing deeply) as a means of focusing on relaxation. Another somatic technique similar to breathing control is centering. Here the performer focuses on the rate of breathing and maintaining a slow, steady pace.
These both keep you more focused and help to avoid any possible distractions. The final somatic technique that can be used is progressive muscular relaxation. Here you tense your muscles one by one for a few seconds from head to toe. This then leaves each muscle more relaxed than normal helping to reduce anxiety levels and its effects. The majority of these techniques, both cognitive and somatic must be practiced and learnt in training in order for them to become effective when competing. A performer can also use Goal setting to manage their anxiety levels.
By using the SMARTER principle of goal setting the performer will set realistic and achievable goals. This will then provide a direction of efforts for the performer. As a result; selective attention will improve, motivation levels will increase, task persistence will increase and self-confidence will also increase. All of these effects will then cause the performers anxiety levels to be reduced. If the performer did not set realistic and achievable goals then the performer would become de-motivated and frustrated. As a result anxiety levels would then increase.
In conclusion anxiety has many effects on a performer, both cognitively and somatically. As these levels of anxiety increase performance levels decline. To avoid the decline in performance there are then many techniques that can be used such as cognitive techniques, somatic techniques and effective goal setting. If the goal setting is not effective or the techniques are not practiced and learnt the performer will not be able to manage his levels of anxiety effectively and therefore anxiety levels will continue to rise.