Sport has been one of the most important human experiences for millions of people for millennia. It’s not just about entertainment or a way to live the present while having fun; in many cases, it acquires a practically spiritual dimension, both for people who experience sport as individuals (either by watching it or by directly participating in it) and for societies in general, which project their identities , their values, their values in tournaments and championships, fights, etc.
However, putting our emotions on the line every time we experience sporting events does not mean that we cannot enjoy them because of experiences such as fear of defeat, stress or an obsession with trying to control what what is happening in the field. In this article we are going to talk about it, focusing on athletes: How to enjoy sport without martyring yourself by thinking about the results?
The link between stress and sport
In sport there is always, to a greater or lesser extent, a tension between what we know we can do and what we want to achieve. It is one of the pillars of the dynamic of competition, which can be based on the interest of measuring oneself, of competing against another person or another team, or both at the same time (this last option is the most common in practice).
This tension means that sport is always associated with stress and a certain level of anxiety.. Not a bad thing in itself, even less; It is the product of all the biological and psychological adaptations that allow us to face new challenges and to solve them (without limiting ourselves to always applying the same strategies and techniques), and it is also a good part of what interests us in sport. in the first place.
If sporting events didn’t have this capacity to put us in “alert mode”, or would produce more than indifference. They would not have the capacity to stimulate us physically and intellectuallysince ultimately all sport is based on a series of arbitrary rules.
So, with what we already know about sport, we have come to the conclusion that these practices do not give us a simple and nuanced form of pleasure and well-being, comparable to the consumption of sugar: it makes us feel good. , but at the same time Sometimes it makes us feel a little bad, because anxiety and stress are not pleasant. This is grace: it is a complex type of experience, likely to be linked to all kinds of emotional processes through which we experience life.
How to enjoy sport without giving in to the urge to suffer?
However, it’s one thing to feel a certain amount of tension and stimulating discomfort, and it’s quite another to make sports something you simply cling to in fear. fear of failureafraid of making people understand that we are not as competent as we thought, afraid of coming to the conclusion that hundreds of hours of training were useless…
If we get into these toxic emotional dynamics, the time we spend in sport will not only do us no good, but it will be a cause of psychological wear and tear which will make us more vulnerable to psychopathologies: insomnia, phobias, generalized anxiety, depression, etc.
To avoid this, it is very important to find a balance between emotional involvement and the ability to analyze what is happening to you from a healthy distance. That is to say: we must learn to be motivated, but without linking all our self-esteem and our self-concept to the objective result of a game or a sports competition. We must know and feel that we are more than an athlete; we are a human being who has chosen sport as one of his means of fostering his personal development and personal achievement.
The key is the flow state
The state of flow is the concept that describes this psychologically healthy and stimulating balance between the difficulty of a task and the set of skills and capacities that we implement here and now to solve this challenge. It’s an experience that happens when our conscience is perfectly integrated with the needs that the situation poses to us; we are absorbed in what is happening.
But even if it seems contradictory, to be in a state of flow in sport you must first learn to move away from it; this way we can play without having obsessive thoughts about failure, catastrophic predictions about what will happen (and they are a factory of anticipatory anxiety), limiting beliefs that violate our self-esteem and assign us all the bad that happens on the field of play (whether or not it is our responsibility).
In other words, to enjoy sport we must be aware of the importance it has for us, but without merging our identity as people with our identity as sports machines (oriented only to deliver results ). This will allow us to both perform better and learn from our mistakes.because looking back and analyzing ourselves won’t cause us much emotional pain.
Some tips to achieve this:
Use visualization techniques to lose your fear of hypothetical situations.
Manage your time with a clear schedule that includes breaks (this will prevent you from procrastinating and being paralyzed by fear and guilt).
Use controlled breathing techniques to alleviate excessive stress levels.
Keep a diary of emotions (these will help you strengthen your self-awareness and detect dysfunctional thoughts).
If you need it, go see a psychologist.
You may be interested: “The 10 psychological benefits of exercise”
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In UPAD Psychology and Coaching We have extensive experience in both the field of psychotherapy and sports psychology and athlete training. We are involved in processes such as stress management, improving attention span management, self-motivation, time management in training routines, detection and neutralization of beliefs limiting, etc. Additionally, we offer our services in person and also online through video call sessions.
- Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.
- Vallès, A., and Vallès, C. (2000): Emotional intelligence: educational applications. Madrid, Editorial EOS.
- Seligman, ME; Walker, EF; Rosenhan, DL (2002). Abnormal psychology. New York: WW Norton & Company.