The Negative Effects of Stress on Sports Performance

    Ever wonder why you don’t perform as well when you’re stressed? Discover the delicate relationship between stress and sports performance below.

    It’s no secret that psychological stress can adversely affect athletic performance.

    We’ve all had days where we haven’t played our best thanks to something (or a long list of things) weighing on our minds.

    But why does this happen? How does mental tension translate to physical inefficiency?

    As it turns out, there’s a delicate balance between stress and sports performance. While the right amount of competitive pressure helps us play better, too much has an adverse impact on the body and mind.

    At best, this stress simply throws us off our game. At worst, it can have dangerous consequences.

    Join us as we explore the negative effects of stress on sports performance, as well as some natural and effective ways to combat it.

    THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STRESS AND SPORTS PERFORMANCE

    These two have an infamously complex yet well-documented relationship. As mentioned above, stress can be good for athletes, but too much can lead to distress, causing a breakdown in performance.

    In the scientific world, the theory of this relationship is illustrated using the Stress Response Curve (SRC). As the name suggests, the SRC displays stress levels versus performance.

    As stress increases from 0, so does performance. The curve continues rising, with a “comfort zone” near the peak, designating the ideal stress level for optimal performance.

    However, once stress reaches critical levels, the curve turns back downward, showing a decrease in performance due to exhaustion and ill health.

    The tricky part about the SRC is that every athlete’s “comfort zone” and capacity for stress is different. Nevertheless, it provides a clear picture of the relationship between stress and sports performance that holds true for everyone — no matter their experience level.

    WHAT ARE THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF STRESS ON SPORTS PERFORMANCE?

    Psychological stress directly affects the body, and when it crosses the threshold of the comfort zone into the realm of distress, several things can happen.

    If you’re an athlete, chances are you've had a day when you felt so anxious that it was nearly impossible to concentrate on your game. Your decision-making was poor, slow, or nonexistent, and your reactions were dull and inaccurate.

    As an athlete, it’s easy to notice when your game feels off, and the more you focus on that feeling, the less you focus on the game. So, you start to slip up, and every mistake gets on your nerves more than the last, creating a cycle of stress and frustration that breaks down your performance.

    To make matters worse, your central nervous system responds to heightened mental stress levels by increasing tension in your muscles, limiting your motor functions.

    This muscle stiffness not only contributes to further performance breakdown but can also increase your risk of injury. When you’re unable to perform basic movements necessary for your sport effectively, it’s much easier to get hurt.

    The negative effects of stress can also impede the body’s ability to recover from injuries.

    STRESS AND SPORTS PERFORMANCE: MAINTAINING A HEALTHY BALANCE

    Luckily, there are many easy (and scientifically proven) ways to minimize or even eliminate the negative effects of stress on sports performance.

    Let’s check out a few of them below.

    diaphragm

    Diaphragmatic Breathing

    Our first method is as easy as breathing in and out!

    Also known as belly breathing, this relaxation technique encourages full oxygen exchange, slows the heartbeat, and lowers or stabilizes blood pressure. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/learning-diaphragmatic-breathing)

    To perform, simply follow these instructions from Harvard Health (https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/learning-diaphragmatic-breathing):

    1. Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent. You can use a pillow under your head and your knees for support, if that's more comfortable.
    2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.
    3. Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air in deeply, towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
    4. Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.
    visualization

    Visualization

    If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed before a competition, visualizing your success can help reduce some of the mental pressure and improve your performance.

    Set aside some time to imagine yourself playing your sport — starting the game, going through the specific movements, scoring on your opponent(s), and securing the victory.

    Both decades-old (https://www.proquest.com/openview/6aeaffc868bc675c89c02e6f52c4bab1/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=30153) and recent (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0928425715000066) scientific research supports the use of visualization (http://www.kheljournal.com/archives/2015/vol1issue6/PartB/1-5-77.pdf) to combat the negative effects of stress on sports performance.

    relaxation

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation

    This relaxation technique has been used since the mid-1930s to relieve stress (https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2012-04979-002), reduce headaches, improve sleep, joint and digestive health, vitality (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/smi.1050), and more.

    It involves the sequential contracting and releasing of nearly every major muscle group to promote an enhanced feeling of relaxation throughout the body.

    And, much like the previous two methods, you don’t need any equipment to do it! For a full tutorial, check out our complete guide on progressive muscle relaxation.

    BEMER

    BEMER Therapy

    In just eight minutes twice a day, BEMER therapy is scientifically proven to reduce stress, promote rest and relaxation, and enhance:

    • Local blood flow and circulation
    • Oxygen delivery and carbon dioxide removal
    • Physical fitness
    • Performance and recovery
    • Strength and endurance
    • Energy and vitality
    • Resiliency
    • Well-being

    The perfect tool for any athlete’s arsenal, BEMER is easy to use, portable, and built to support optimal performance.

    Using specialized applicators for full-body or targeted therapy, BEMER devices safely send a pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) signal through the body to stimulate the muscles.

    This recovery tool is like a wireless charger for your body, naturally boosting its resilience to stress, improving your fitness, and helping you do what you do best.

    Talk to a BEMER distributor today to turn the tide against the negative effects of stress on sports performance. It only takes sixteen minutes a day!

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    BEMER does not provide any medical advice or services. This device is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It should not be used for any purpose other than as described in the user manual. Please consult your own healthcare provider if you have any medical issues.

    BEMER USA LLC is a leader in the field of microcirculation. BEMER Group North America, 1989 Palomar Oaks Way, Carlsbad, CA 92011

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