The reality is this—no one is spared from anxiety. No human is ever immune from anxiety. Anxiety is a fundamental feeling all humans experience. It actually serves a noble purpose, if used wisely. Anxiety can be a dangerous thing when it is not used for the greater good. Anxiety can help people get motivated. It is just a matter of how to channel such emotion for good.

At the turn of the 20th century, great psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson studied the link between anxious arousal and performance in their historic research. The duo found out when athletes don’t get much psychological arousal the performance might struggle a bit. This is now known as the Yerkes and Dodson Law. The law is highlighting the ability to achieve optimal balance between activation and getting some relaxation to gain optimal outcomes in the performance level.

An athlete who is wanting to optimize the performance level—whether in sports or in one’s personal life—look at the example of people constantly putting themselves at the path of anxiety and learning to harness the emotion towards greater benefits.

Life as a sport

There is a lot to learn how to play with anxiety especially among athletes, military persons, police officers, and other persons, Dr. Jonathan Fader a sport psychologist for Major League Baseball’s New York Mets. Fader, a co-founder at Union Square Practice, says people who are exposed to anxiety practice the art of enhancing their emotional and physiological awareness. He says these persons try to manage these states of emotion and repeatedly expose themselves to cues such as a basketball flying through the air, the sound of the fire alarm, or the smell of smoke in the air.

The eminent sports psychologist says the goal is not to have an emotional response to a stimulus. Rather, he says, to identify a degree of arousal so such action can provide a positive outcome without one getting overwhelmed.

Minding the mindset

Challenges can be re-conceptualized through self-talk, and threats. A growth mindset is one of the most important steps in developing the persistence towards better performance.

With growth mindset, one can develop some inspiration with emphasis on the process rather than the results. It helps organize and open up opportunities to practice and improve towards better performance.

Expecting stress

The reality is that stress will happen to anybody. Expecting stress can lead to a better ability to overcome the negative impact. Breathing exercises and visualizations can help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. Using the exercises can strengthen one’s psychological and mental foundation in preparation.

One step backward and one step forward

Fader recommends to the athlete to have a ritual about physical experience, how sensations start and end, and identify any positive focus to the challenges.  If a person is able to gain the experience as no longer harmful and plain normal—one is able to achieve even if the existence of stress and anxiety have not actually gone away from the professional athlete’s mind.