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with Geoff Paull
If we interpret nervousness as 'arousal' (the increase in psychological tension we experience through, for example, excitement, stress or anger), then we can aim for an 'Ideal Performance State' of arousal (IPS) for any performer or athlete.
Geoff shows the effect of arousal on performance as a graph shaped like an 'inverted U', where the level of nervousness we experience relates to the level of performance we can expect. That is, we pass from low arousal and being unmotivated; to moderate arousal and good performance; and then to over-arousal and a fall-off in the level of performance if we can’t control emotions. Therefore, not all nervousness is negative. Some arousal is a sign of readiness, excitement and anticipation. Framing nerves in this more positive way is the start point to finding your IPS - sometimes setting us up to experience the very maximum performance state - the ‘zone’.
Not all athletes or performers are the same in their reaction to stress or excitement. That is, some need to be relaxed to perform well, while others like to rev up before competition. And this can alter as well for the type of performance, sport or maybe position that anyone plays in. So don’t get caught up in comparing too closely your style with others - difference may be OK if your level of arousal works for you.
Techniques For Arousal Control
There are many good techniques that performers use to move their level of arousal into the IPS. There are generally two types - those that start with a mental exercise that then helps our physical operations (Mind to Muscle); and those that use some type of physical activity to focus the mind away from negative thoughts and feelings (Muscle to Mind).
Mind to Muscle Techniques
P Symbols, music or pictures
P Mistake Management
Muscle to Mind Techniques
P Deep Breathing
P Progressive muscle relaxation
P Body Scanning
P Body Language
P Physical exertion
Emotional regulation skills are appropriate to all levels of performance, and if young athletes and performers learn these early in their careers they have a much greater chance of achieving elite level later in life. And these are useful in other areas of life such as academic performance and career development, so they are general lifeskills useful for all peple who strive for achievement.