Sport psychology is not one dimensional- thank goodness.
In an ever changing, complex world with fluctuating views about nutrition, workout philosophies, sleep patterns, and technology gadgets--it is hard to keep up. Just when you get used to your phone….BAM…a new update. Don’t even get me started on nutrition…eat whole grains, don’t eat gluten, more protein, less protein, only eat vegetables, don’t eat fruit, sugar isn’t bad, sugar is bad, and now I really can’t keep up. If you are anything like me, you need stability in your life. Something you can lean on whenever you need a boost, to relax, or just something to depend on. Sport psychology has become that for me. Typically, when we think of sport psychology we think of athletes and exercisers. However, the versatility of sport psychology into everyday life outside of athletics and exercising is not only useful, but also comforting.
So, what else can sport psychology be used for? The following are reoccurring parts of life that can be improved by implementing mental skills:
Obviously, playing football for four quarters and running the 400-meter dash are athletic performances. However, one of our most important performances is taking a test. Why? Because often times it has a high impact on our lives. Whether it is taking the SATs to get into college, the driver’s test to get your license, a medical exam to get cleared for work or sports, or a licensing test to reach or renew your professional career, tests have huge implications for us. While taking a test you can utilize the skills of self-talk and relaxation. Tests can be really frustrating, long, and anxiety provoking. Utilizing deliberate breathing to remain focused and composed can be helpful. This can simply be done by taking a small break in your test and taking a few deep, belly breaths in an out to regain your composure and enhance your ability to recall information. In addition, during the test when doubts start to creep in, reminding yourself about the work that you put into studying and the positive steps you have taken to do well.
Interviewers are looking for confidence, along with many other things, when interviewing you for a position. Confidence is necessary to do the job correctly and take necessary risks to make an impact. Having education and experience can only take you so far, without confidence maximal potential will not be reached. Before going into an interview, remind yourself of past experiences where you were successful. Draw upon those successes to heighten confidence when you need it the most. Utilizing these past experiences is one of the greatest ways to enhance confidence quickly and in the moment. While in the waiting room or on your drive to the interview, have a pre-planned set of experiences to draw from when doubt, worry, and negativity start to creep in.
Waiting in traffic
Stuck in traffic….need I say more? This can be one of the most stressful and anxiety provoking situations. Not only does waiting in traffic massively adjust our time allotment for the day, it can also completely disrupt our emotion regulation. I personally use this time to utilize the skill of imagery. Imagery is the mental rehearsal of an experience, or mentally practicing a task or skill. In traffic, it may be helpful to visualize something you want to get better at- whether a golf swing, a recipe for cooking, an upcoming 5k race, or a new exercise in the weight room. Although not as beneficial as physical practice, mental rehearsal of a task provides many performance benefits such as skill development. You can also take this time to visualize an experience in the past and evaluate your performance. What would you have done differently given another chance? What did you do well that you want to do again?
If you have difficulty falling asleep, deliberate breathing can help you fall asleep faster. Taking a few deliberate breaths while lying in bed can help you become more relaxed and be in a more restful state to fall asleep. In addition, I take this time to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness has been a huge trend in the last couple years within the world of sport psychology. Mindfulness is accepting and focusing on the here-and-now. It involves not dwelling on the past or future. Mindfulness also helps us appreciate the current moment and make the most of it, free from judgment. I personally use this time to let go of thoughts that I am having about wanting things to be a certain way. I pay attention to what it is like for me to let go of these thoughts as opposed to dwelling on them. You can also pay attention to your breathing and where you are feeling your breath in your body: belly, rib cage, mouth, throat, nose, etc., to stay in the present moment.