Competitive sports focus on achieving athletic success. They are characterized by a sharp focus on achieving goals, a high level of skill, improved working capacity, and further supplemented by health, well-being, and prevention of any injury. However, the key aspect of understanding the psychology behind any high achievement sport is competition as a social comparison process. Many athletes have taken mental health breaks to safeguard their well-being. These include tennis players Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, cricketer Ben Stokes, gymnast Simone Biles, mountain bike rider Jenny Rissveds and many more.
Sports and competition:
The crux of any sports competition is a detailed evaluation and a social comparison of athletes as per the specially developed and approved rules for that particular sport. Competitive performance is thus a process of delivering results by athletes or the team as a whole. In any competition, judges generally rank every athlete by comparing him with his competitors. However, athletes often use self-referenced criteria to evaluate their results in terms of personal success or failure. To demonstrate athletic excellence in these competitions, every athlete has to practise regularly and consistently to enhance his performance. Practice sessions and competitions together contribute to the development of athletes’ physical and mental capabilities.
What is competitive stress?
Sports psychologists define competitive stress as “An athlete’s perception of an imbalance between the environmental requisites placed on him or her and the athlete’s response in terms of his capacity and resources for fulfilling those demands”. Competitive stress is one of the most researched fields among sport psychologists, who focus on strategies and techniques that athletes can use to cope with their anxiety levels during the competition phase.
Ways to manage stress resulting from competitive sports:
Problem-focused coping: It involves facing the problem head-on through strategies like information gathering, goal setting, time management, and problem-solving. Problem-focused strategies may also include what you do before the game to manage stress. Many athletes have a good warm-up/communication between their teammates, which helps them to reduce their stress.
Emotion-focused coping: It involves strategies for the regulation of emotional responses resulting from a stressor through techniques like meditation, relaxation therapies, positive thinking and forgiveness. Athletes also use social support such as appreciation from teammates or family.
Avoidance coping: This includes physical or mental disengagement from any stressful situation and is typically done by ignoring or preventing irrelevant distractions like parents, coaches, and fans.
Cognitive restructuring: Efforts are made to modify thinking. People tend to change the way they think about a problem by altering their opinions and values. Athletes usually use a positive self-talking strategy or mental images of past successes to overcome their stress and anxiety.
Emotional health of sports athletes:
Emotions are an important part of any performance. They can be classified based on different attributes - positive/negative or, based on intensity - high/low. The latest theoretical advances have shown a conceptual relationship between emotional and cognitive processes. New theories have come up that take advantage of neurophysiological research to assess brain and body responses. The latest trends are impressive in their ability to widen our understanding, however, more work needs to be done in these areas.
Supplements to help athletes reduce competitive stress and anxiety:
1. 5HTP: 5-HTP is an amino acid naturally synthesized in our bodies. It acts as a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a crucial role in sleep regulation, managing appetite, stress, aggression, depression and sensation of pain. Lack of proper sleep further leads to an increase in the stress hormone - cortisol, which increases the risk of depression and stress-related issues. Steadfast 5-HTP is packed with amino acids like 5-HTP, glycine, taurine which supports mental calmness, helps in melatonin production and provides relaxation to our brain nerves. Steadfast 5-HTP may prove beneficial for athletes battling mental depression, who want to avoid consuming medications like antidepressants.
Why Steadfast’s 5-HTP?
1. Relieves stress and anxiety
2. Promotes sleep
3. Induces calmness
4. Minimises risk of depression
5. Promotes cognitive health
6. Powerful antioxidant
7. Minimises risk of metabolic disorders
8. Helps in managing weight
Dosage and directions to consume:
One to two tablets of Steadfast 5-HTP can be taken with normal water or juice.
2. Melatonin: It is a natural, non-habit forming sleep supplement that promotes better sleep. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland inside the brain, which is further released into the bloodstream. It is popularly known as the 'sleep hormone’ and is released by the body after the sun goes down, and helps one to relax and get into sleep mode. Melatonin is widely available in form of oral tablets which makes it easy and convenient to use.
Health Benefits of Steadfast Melatonin:
1. Improves sleep quality
2. Helps in mind relaxation
3. Reduces anxiety
4. Regulates sleep & wake cycles
5. Improves metabolism
6. Non-habit forming
7. Eases jet lag strain
Dosage and directions to consume:
Take one to two melatonin tablets before bedtime. It is advisable not to exceed the recommended dosage for 24 hours. Pregnant or lactating women should avoid melatonin. It is not ideally used in conjunction with alcoholic beverages, while driving, or operating machinery.
Dealing with sports-related stress is a complex process for every athlete and does not involve just a single coping style for every situation. Athletes should, therefore, use a combination of techniques along with the above-mentioned supplements to improve their sports performance and support their mental health. A significant improvement in mental health will help them perform and deliver better results. Apart from this, atheletes can also practice mindfulness, muscle relaxation, deep breathing, positive self talk, eat well and get enough sleep for maintaining holistic well being.