The Importance of Controlling Arousal

In this article I would like to address how controlling our arousal level is a critical part of achieving higher performance levels. We have all had the experience of being so uptight that everything in our game suffers. I have actually worked with athletes who get so nervous before game time that they have considered not playing any more competitions. Stress tends to get a bad rap, but stress is not all bad! We need a certain amount of arousal in our body in order to feel motivated and get us ready for the task at hand. If you can picture a curve as shown, in the middle of that curve we will function well and have the appropriate level of arousal in our system.

At a certain point on that curve, the stress or arousal is no longer functional and turns into what we call distress. The results to our game will be a decrease in our performance mentally and physically. The athlete needs to be able to moderate him or herself within their stress cycle. If one is always in distress, the results are usually exhaustion and frustration.

In my last article, I discussed how I use hypnosis for myself and with the athletes with whom I work. I train them to be able to hypnotize themselves and to immediately be able to bring themselves out of the stress cycle. A very simple thing you can do without this training is to just notice your breathing. As you focus on your breathing you can imagine breathing in relaxation and breathing out any tension in the body. In very short order you can bring yourself back into a more functional area within the stress cycle. My preference is to have a very simple cue hypnotically conditioned so that there is no need for conscious or analytical thinking to achieve the response desired. In the next article I will discuss the concept of positive thinking. Until then, remember to notice your breathing.