The factor becomes a stressor due to the cognitive interpretation of the person (attributing the value to the sensation) or through the mechanisms of metabolism and digestion. Also, stressors are described as stimulus, that introduce a person into a state of tension or arousal. Stressor (stress factor or situation) is a factor that contributes to the manifestation of a state of stress, it can be extreme or pathological, having an unpleasant effect on the athlete’s body.
Stressors are divided into 2 general types:
• Psychological (competition, threat to status in society or self-esteem, interaction with the closest environment);
• Physiological (exposure to extremely high and low temperatures, taking certain drugs (amphetamine and caffeine), unbearable noise and pain).
Russian psychotherapist Vladimir Levy claims that a person is under constant stress. It is the mental and physiological stressors that do not allow the athlete to be at rest. The scientist divided stress factors into two categories: short-term and long-term:
Short term stressors
They may occur suddenly or occur at regular time intervals. Short-term factors can’t become chronic and have a frivolous effect on the human nervous system:
1) Errors and failures. Sometimes, when a person is attached to memories of past blunders or someone else reminds him of this, an athlete may experience just as much stress as at the moment of failure. Vladimir Levi notices that the sharpness of the perception of past mistakes decreases with time;
2) Temperature drops, bright light, annoying smells, noise. These stimuli have little attention to the athlete, but they contribute to a decrease in concentration in training and in any competitions;
3) Fear. Fear of physical pain or pain to another person. Criticism or bullying towards the athlete. Although these stressors are short-term, however, if they are systematically repeated, there is a risk that this stimulus will become long-term;
4) High tempo, fussiness, speed. If an athlete is regularly rushed, forced to do the exercises faster than he is used to, then he instantly gets under the influence of the stressor;
5) Discomfort. The climate (heat, cold, dampness) in which the athlete is located triggers defensive reactions in the body, which causes severe discomfort, especially when traveling to competitions in different countries.
Long term stressors
Their influence makes significant changes in the order of life of an athlete, sometimes even undermining human health. Stressors that are long term:
- Extreme lifestyle, dangerous activity. Extreme sports and dependence on adrenaline strongly affect the mental health of a person, contributing to the emergence of new stressors;
- Background exposure. Exhausting training and regular competitions are detrimental to the athlete’s psycho-physical condition;
- Insulation. This may be a tight schedule of workouts or even a diet. Any restrictions or infringements in the habitual needs of the athlete’s body entail serious damage to the emotional and physical condition of the person;
- Heavy loads, overwork. Both stressors cause not only physical, but also mental fatigue. This greatly affects the performance and readiness for competition.
How stressors affect the body
Scientists distinguish three stages of the impact of stress on the athlete’s body:
- Feeling of discomfort and anxiety. Often accompanied by a violation of the gastrointestinal tract and adrenal glands.
- The resistance of the human body to the source of stress. The body produces antibodies, the nervous system dulls the sensations of the person, preparing for the fight against stress.
- Emotional and physical exhaustion, the body can no longer deal with the state of stress. The protective mechanisms of a person begin to weaken, the symptoms of anxiety, which gradually develop into a nervous breakdown, are noticed again.
Serious damage to the athlete’s immune system. A person begins to get sick more often and is vulnerable even to the most innocuous infections. We recommend that you carefully monitor your health and the condition of your team members in order to avoid the third stage of development of a stressful state!
Despite the negative effects of being in a state of stress, in the early stages, stressors can also have a positive effect. If they are not of high significance or are short-term, then there is a possibility that stressors will increase the athlete’s productivity, as well as his concentration. A person acquires better information, and his thinking becomes flexible.
Remember, to eliminate or at least reduce the influence of stressors, you need to change your opinion and attitude towards them, as well as create the conditions to avoid them!