Stress, Sports and Performance

Powerful Essays
Actors, athletes and students all have something in common. They all perform their tasks with varying stress levels. What is this stress that we all talk about? Stress can be defined as a physical, mental or emotional demand, which tends to disturb the homeostasis of the body. Used rather loosely, the term may relate to any kind of pressure, be it due to one's job, schoolwork, marriage, illness or death of a loved one. The common denominator in all of these is change. Loss of familiarity breeds this anxiety with any change being viewed as a "threat".

The issue of anxiety is an important aspect of performance. Whether it is during the tense moments of a championship game or amidst that dreaded History exam, anxiety affects our performance via changes in the body, which can be identified by certain indicators. One misconception though with performing under pressure is that stress always has a negative connotation. Many times, "the stress of competition may cause a negative anxiety in one performer but positive excitement in another" (3). That is why one frequently hears how elite players' thrive under pressure, when most others would crumble.


Stress is an integral part of our lives. "It is a natural byproduct of all our activities" (4). Life is a dynamic process and thus forever changing and stressful. Our body responds to acute stress by a liberation of chemicals. This is known as the fight-or-flight response of the body, which is mediated by adrenaline and other stress hormones, and is comprised of such physiologic changes as increased heart rate and blood pressure, faster breathing, muscle tension, dilated pupils, dry mouth and increased blood sugar. In other words, stress is the state of inc...

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... in Sport. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1990.

4)Herbert, John. "Stress, the Brain and Mental Illness." BMJ. 30 August 1997: 530-535.

5) Peforming Your Best When it Counts the Most , by Kyle Kepler

6) Choking in Big Competitions , by Kaori Araki

7) The Online Journal of Sports Psychology ,

8) The Mental Edge , by Sandy Dupcak

9) Competitive Anxiety , by Brian Mackenzie

10)Nelson, Charles. The Effects of Early Adversity on Neurobehavioral Development. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000.

11)Neufeld, Richard. Advances in the Investigation of Psychological Stress. New York:Wiley and Sons, 1989.
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