Managing Emotions and Self Talk
In this section we will explore a little further the issue of emotions in sport including negative self talk and anxiety – a common problem for many golfers.
First some technical explanations. Anxiety comes in two forms – somatic (or physiological) anxiety and cognitive anxiety (or worry and self talk).
Somatic anxiety relates back to our primeval days when signs of danger would trigger physiological changes to prepare us for fight or flight – the adrenalin rush. This may include tensing of the muscles, increasing heart rate, feelings in the stomach, shortening of breath and increased sweating.
To a certain degree, this type of arousal is helpful and indeed, necessary, for sports performance. There is what is termed optimal arousal for peak
performance. This optimum level will be different for different sports and different personalities and so needs to be gauged individually. Performance will reduce if arousal is either less than or greater than this optimum level. If arousal level is graphed against performance, the result is what in sports psychology is termed the “Inverted – U”. To help control arousal levels to your optimum level, breathing techniques have been found to be very successful.
Now cognitive arousal is a different matter and it has been proven that sports performance decreases in direct proportion to levels of cognitive anxiety. Indeed, if high levels of somatic anxiety are linked to high levels of cognitive anxiety, this can lead to performance breakdown.
What is cognitive anxiety and how can we overcome it? Perhaps more easily described as worry – using our imagination in a destructive way either with images or self talk of things going wrong! You could say programming ourselves to fail!
So how do we overcome it? At the simplest level, it’s about developing mindful awareness of your thoughts, letting go of negative thoughts and using positive self talk or positive imagery. Look at the section on “Being in the Zone” for some good tips. At another level, it can be about using Cognitive Behavioural Hypnosis to establish positive patterns about how we feel, think and behave deep in our unconscious mind.