“Keep calm!” Mental self-regulation in sport


Often during competitions, there are situations in which you need to regulate your condition. In cases where mental and physical exertion are too great, and the athlete poorly manages his condition, excessive mental stress occurs, which reduces the effectiveness of the activity and can lead to his disorganization, psychological breakdown, loss of confidence.

Psychic self-regulation

Psychic self-regulation – the impact of a person on himself with the help of words and mental images (that is, self-management of a person by himself without outside help). In psychic self-regulation, there are two main directions: self-conviction (acting on oneself with the help of logical arguments) and self-suggestion (absolute faith capable of acting on consciousness, sometimes bypassing logic).

The ability to control oneself is an important component of readiness for any activity, including sports. In sports, there are a number of different self-regulation methods of the mental state of an athlete before the start, which reduce excessive neuropsychic tension (for example, during a pre-start fever).

The simplest methods of self-regulation

The simplest methods of self-regulation (they don’t require special training). The mental state of an athlete is very clearly manifested externally: motor activity increases, fussiness manifests itself, gestures and facial expressions are activated, the intensity of communication increases, voice intonation is achieved. Therefore, it’s very important to learn how to use methods of control and regulate the external manifestations of emotions.

Let us examine several techniques:

1) Ideomotor training. Preventing the severity or change in the severity of the driving force – reducing heart rate, blood pressure, and other vegetative reactions

Studies have shown that with the appearance of pronounced emotions, a person should determine the state of himself, tension, and muscle relaxation, establishing a calm breathing rhythm, the need to eliminate autonomic shifts, tension decreases and the stability of a number of mental and motor functions increases: coordination and accurate effort, quick action, removal of constraint. This affects the formation of emotional stability.

2) Breathing exercises performed with different rhythms, with different levels of inspiration duration

Acceptance of breathing exercises is based on the psycho-physiological and biomechanical functions of the regulation of respiration. It is used as self-regulation. It’s recommended to use one or three exercises:

  • Inhale moderately with a full breast, hold your breath for 5-6 seconds. Exhale slowly. Repeat 2-3 times
  • Inhale, hold your breath, say in your mind: “I will exhale and calm down.” Exhale and relax. Repeat several times
  • Feel the pulse and remember its rhythm. Then take a breath and 4 hits. Take a slight breath hold, avoiding lung hyperventilation. Repeat several times

3) Neuromuscular relaxation
(progressive muscle relaxation)

Progressive muscle relaxation is a set of exercises. This relaxation system helps to relieve tension in certain parts of the body or from the whole body. Because of this, emotional stress gradually passes. Athletes feel warm and pleasant heaviness. The basis for this is the desire for the appearance of persistent severity sensations.

Mastering the neuromuscular relaxation technique takes place in three stages:

1. development of skills for recognition of individual group muscles at rest;

2. Combining skills into complexes, providing relaxation of the whole body or its separate part;

3. Assimilation of “recreation skills”, which allows you to relax in any stressful situations.

4) Exposure to secondary signal stimulus

Extremely diverse psychological methods of influencing the emotional states of a person, carried out by means of second-signal stimulus, that is, speech. According to research, the simplest of this group is self-order taking. This technique is used to increase emotional arousal, and to reduce it. Depending on the peculiarities of the emotional sphere of the personality, it’s recommended to use verbal formulations like “I’m calm”, “That’s fine”, “I’m sure”, etc., and for raising – “I can”, “I have to”, “I know”, “I know how”, etc.

5) Intentional change in the direction and content of ideas and thoughts (“distraction” or “switching”)

Disconnection (distraction) is the ability to think about anything, except for circumstances that cause strong emotions. Turning off requires volitional efforts, with the help of which a person tries to focus attention on the representation of foreign objects and situations. Reducing the significance of the upcoming competitions or the result obtained is accomplished by giving the event a lesser value or reevaluating the significance of the situation like “not really wanted”, “it’s not the main thing in life, you shouldn’t treat the incident as a catastrophe”, and “now I treat them differently”, etc.

Remember that complex methods of self-regulation require special training, training under the guidance of psychologists and psychotherapists who are good at them. Among them are used: autogenous, psychomuscular, psycho-regulating and their varieties, ideomotor training.

Exercise and sports often cause us strong emotional outbursts and can be an excellent test for any person of their ability to regulate their behavior (for example, making decisions, getting rid of negative thoughts). Self-regulation should be a decisive factor in the participation of a person in sports activities. Failure to control one’s emotions can lead to uncontrolled emotional outbursts, poor relations with team members and a decrease in physical performance.

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