Managing Your Emotions
“Just relax” has to be up there with “Don’t worry” on the list of most pointless phrases. Even with the best intentions, 9 times out of 10 I would argue that telling someone to stop feeling a certain way is not going to miraculously rid them of their unwanted thoughts. In my experience, being told not to worry is extremely irritating. It serves only to point out that which I already know; that I am feeling anxious.
In sport, a positive mental attitude teamed with self belief is vital. As an athlete, I find my own anxious tendencies most obvious when I am trying to compete. Self doubt can manifest in the brain and hinder the performance of an athlete. It can often feel as if I’m fighting a battle with my own poisonous thoughts!
When people flag up to me that I appear to be in a nervous or even defeatist mood, I can persist further against the negative voice in my head, but once it takes hold I can rarely escape. I have always been puzzled by my mind’s desires to work against me!
Anxiety is obviously not limited to sport, it can impact everyday life. The question is, how can we shut down our own negative thoughts?
The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters is a must read for anyone who wants to effectively manage their emotions. Fundamentally, the book explores how the human brain is made up of the ‘Human’, ‘Chimp’ and ‘Computer’ components. Peters teaches the agenda’s of each part of the brain and how to recognise when a certain part has taken control.
This book is not only insightful, but very entertaining and digestible. I’ve had a lot of contact with psychology material for athletes, but this is not intended only for athletes. Peters simplifies science to give advice on how to manage your mind. Personally, I have found this book extremely useful, as it provides many exercises for self development. Furthermore, Peters approach has made me feel more accepting of my own destructive thoughts, as they are a healthy component of the brain. Although they effect people to varying degrees, they are normal and we can all learn to manage them!