Stress Dictates Performance
Stress and anxiety are prevalent in every human being’s daily life. Terms like stress and anxiety’s use can be varied based on the metrics they are given. The definition of stress we are going to use, noted by Miguel Humara, is “a state that results from the demands that are placed on the individual which require that person to engage in some coping behavior.” Also by Humara, anxiety is defined “as results when the individual doubts his or her ability to cope with the situation that causes him or her stress.” Stress and anxiety stem from uncertainties, deadlines, emotions of frustration, and much more. Having feelings of anxiousness result in pressure on the beholder. Depending on the emotional intelligence of the beholder, the pressure can force production or nothing at all. Stress and anxiety are found to hinder the ability to finish daily tasks with efficiency or even finish these tasks at all.
In order to grasp the damage that stress and anxiety cause, an assessment of where stress and anxiety comes from must come prior. Hans Selye, the father of stress research, proposed that stress was present in any situation that an individual was exposed to a demand. A proposal like this, leaves us with an interesting thought. Everything that imposes a demand, will result in stress. Worry will bring upon stress. A change in scenery will bring upon stress, this could be the change from a household to a classroom. Although it is something that everyone has gone through thousands of times, there is a different expectation in the classroom than the household. This change in expectation puts unseen pressure that results in a rise in stress. We run into these situations every single day. The change from the ramp into the highway to merging onto the interstate. Although we go through it thousands of times, during that moment of merging, there is no doubt a rise in blood pressure as we try to fit into the fast-paced interstate to keep up with the pack. The tension and demand that we endure during events of pressure brings on stress as we know it.
If any situation where an individual is exposed to a demand results in stress, that means positive and negative association both result in stress. Yet there is a massive negative connotation around the word stress. With this notion, we must delve deeper into types of stress. The most common type of stress that every individual encounters is known as acute stress. Acute stress, according to MayoClinic.org, is the body’s immediate response to a perceived challenge or threat. Examples of acute stress would be the preparation for a job interview, receiving a speeding ticket, or having financial problems. Acute stress will cause inconvenience and potential serious damage if not treated by a healthy mind and high emotional intelligence. If this acute stress persists, it has the ability to transform and evolve into chronic stress. Chronic stress is a repetitive sensation that is seemingly never ending. Chronic stress is seen as a result of traumatic experiences. The umbrella term of traumatic experiences could be years of beratement one may receive from loved ones and/or guardians. The traumatic experience could also be a soldier’s missions in Afghanistan where they saw countless unnecessary circumstances resulting in bloodshed. These traumatic experiences leave a deep cut that will leave long-lasting, problematic issues. The damage that comes along with chronic stress will result in losing the ability to consistently finish daily tasks, some find it difficult to get out of their own bed. The single positive stress we encounter is known as eustress. Eustress is typically associated with adrenaline based situations such as scares and competitive activities. Eustress can be noticed in the thrill of being lost in a carnival maze, or experiencing a roller coaster. Eustress is stress that an individual can benefit from.
Anxiety is a relative to stress. The two are of the same blood. Anxiety results from negative types of stress like acute stress and chronic stress. Anxiety is a feeling of restlessness that is very intense. Typically not experienced from present moments, but rather a moment in anticipation, as noted by K. W. Estes and F. B. Skinner. Anxiety is a normal feeling that majority of people encounter. Anxiety becomes a true issue when it does not relent, this is when disorders and further issues are brought onto the stage. An emotional state is a massive dictator on how strong anxiety will stay relevant.
Stress and anxiety directly effect performance in every scenario, especially on-the-ball activities like athletics. The capability of coping with stress and anxiety separates elites from the rest. Athletes are influenced by stressful situations and anxiety in every match that they compete in. Competitive anxiety is higher for individual sport athletes than team athletes. A major reason for this is that individual sport athletes do not have the reliance on others for assistance. As well as knowing that only one person can be of blame for a bad performance, this results in more weight on the athlete’s shoulders. Through numerous studies, there is proof that cognitive anxiety holds a strong influence on one’s performance. In Humara’s analysis, he notes that athletes who are aware of their anxiety and stress, not only score higher on self-confidence tests, but also perform at a higher efficiency in these stressful situations. The athletes who could not properly control their stress saw worse performances by some margin. Showing that clearly, the worse stress and anxiety is seen, the worse the performance will be. These performances were noted at varying skill levels as well. However, there seems to be a different understanding of anxiety in athletes, some believe it to be debilitative while others see it as facilitative. Those who choose the latter see less anxiety in their sports compared to those who choose the former. The athletes that have control over their emotions have their stress perceived as eustress in comparison to those who could not cope with the situation, interpreting their stress as acute stress.
Stress and anxiety are felt in every individual’s life constantly. The way we manage and cope with these two factors dictate every decision we make. In the topic of athletics, the way athletes control and cope with these factors translate directly to their performance. An athlete, no matter the skill level, if they cannot cope well with the inevitable, they will not be able to perform at their peak. The stress and anxiety that athletes will undoubtedly face will dictate their final performance, whether for the better or for the worse.
Estes, W. K., & Skinner, B. F. Some quantitative properties of anxiety. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 29(5), 390–400.
Humara, Miguel The Relationship Between Anxiety and Performance: A Cognitive-Behavioral Perspective Athletic Insight.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, July 29). Identify your stress triggers. Mayo Clinic.
Tan, S. Y., & Yip, A. (2018, April). Hans Selye (1907-1982): Founder of the stress theory. Singapore medical journal.