An athlete with high anxiety trait (A-trait) is likely to be more anxious in stressful situations. To help the athlete control competitive anxiety somatic techniques (relaxation) and cognitive techniques (mental imagery) can be used. The five breath technique This anxiety control exercise can be performed while you are standing up, lying down or sitting upright. It is ideally used just before competition, or whenever you feel particularly tense. You should inhale slowly, deeply and evenly through your nose, and exhale gently through your mouth as though flickering, but not extinguishing, the flame of a candle:
- Take a deep breath and allow your face and neck to relax as you breathe out
- Take a second deep breath and allow your shoulders and arms to relax as you breathe out
- Take a third deep breath and allow your chest, stomach and back to relax as you breathe out
- Take a fourth deep breath and allow your legs and feet to relax as you breathe out
- Take a fifth deep breath and allow your whole body to relax as you breathe out
- Continue to breathe deeply for as long as you need to, and each time you breathe out say the word 'relax' in your mind's ear
Benson's relaxation response Benson's technique is a form of meditation that can be used to attain quite a deep sense of relaxation and can be ideal for staying calm in between rounds of a competition.
It can be mastered with just a few weeks' practice and comprises of seven easy steps:
1. Sit in a comfortable position and adopt a relaxed posture
2. Pick a short focus word that has significant meaning for you and that you associate with relaxation (e.g. relax, smooth, calm, easy, float, etc.)
3. Slowly close your eyes
4. Relax all the muscles in your body
5. Breathe smoothly and naturally, repeating the focus word
6. Be passive so that if other thoughts enter your mind, dismiss them with, 'Oh well' and calmly return to the focus word - do not concern yourself with how the process is going
7. Continue this for 10 to 15 minutes as required.