To all the work and sacrifice required of the sporting elite, other pressures are added, such as being watched by half the world or the high expectations that plague many athletes with evaluation anxiety, a phenomenon that affects all people. affects to varying degrees.
“It’s me and my head when I step on the mat. I deal with the demons in my head. After what I performed, I didn’t want to continue. I have to focus on my mental health. Mental health is more present in sports right now. We have to protect our mind and body and not just do what the world wants us to do.” Simone Biles At the press conference after the team pulled out of the final. What was the gymnast referring to? How can a person who wins four golds and one bronze in RO have a problem with confidence?
Maybe because of this. Being in the game elite is not easy, it requires a lot of sacrifice and sometimes supports many other additional game loads. in the matter of biles, on a physical level, the work that this sport does and what it breaks, is added that Has become the face of gymnastics and the life of America, a title he earned after his performance in Ro. She’s been speculating for weeks on the number of golds – five or six – that she could win in Tokyo and that the US team had great hopes of not losing against Russia.
when you most respected gymnast in history And all hope is pinned on you, the strange thing would be the absence of demons, doubts, negative thoughts, pressure, anxiety… She’s not the first athlete to suffer it. already at the end of May Tennis player Naomi Osaka withdraws from Roland Garros citing concerns Every so often he had to appear before the media and was said to have suffered from prolonged depression since his first Grand Slam. He spoke publicly about his depression and anxiety history shortly before Osaka, considered the best swimmer of all time and Olympic athlete with the most medals, Michael Phelps.
“Because people dare to speak more about their problem, because It’s a problem we all have, we all worry. To a greater or lesser extent, in a different way. Because everyone values these situations in a different way, each of us has a different experience with that situation, an experience that may be for better or worse. That is, in those past times you have done well or on some occasions you have felt bad and you learn more insecurities”, explains Antonio R. Cano-Windel, professor of psychology at Complutense University and president of Spanish Society for the Study of Anxiety and Stress (SEAS).
The professor explains that this phenomenon is called evaluation concern. “Worry That’s what happens to all of us when you’re doing tests, exams and, for example, driving license exams. In a normal class you are at risk of doing well, staying on time, learning even if the teacher can do it for you. But on exam day, apart from this, there is another additional pressure on you and that is that you may fail and if you fail it has unwanted consequences, such as financial and time, among other things. Some people more than others, but we all increase our anxiety on such days. For athletes, the Olympic exam is number one And, therefore, the more important it is, the more likely it is to have anxiety before the test.”
When we feel evaluated, everyone can become a victim of anxiety.But an elite athlete, for example, is exposed to more situations than a butcher. “Sure, but note that some butchers will feel good about cutting meat in front of their client because they are doing it well and others will be more concerned just because of it, to cut meat in front of the client and they are watching them,” argues Cano-Windel.
the professor says long ago experience. “I’m a teacher and I’ve been teaching for 35 years, it’s not the same as teaching on day one. It’s another situation, by the way, in which an assessment is done, public speaking anxiety. This is something generic, a concern assessed by the ISRA (List of Anxiety Conditions and Responses), a test I collaborated on 35 years ago in the design. The first situation it covers is before an exam or job interview and the next is if I have to speak in public, and there are other similar situations that are similar in that it can put me at risk. “
Many people are also affected by going on television for the first time., according to the chairman of the sea. “It affects because you can be wrong, because someone who is an expert will be watching you … Everyone has their threats. But it’s clear that the first time you go on television there’s a worrisome The situation happens because they will see you a lot of people and they will see your performance, that they see your performance, that is another kind of test, not only do you pass or not, but that half the world is watching you. We all have pressure, but some have more evaluation anxiety and others less”.
Break a record, be the medal hope of an entire nation, that half the world’s eyes are on you, speak publicly in the press room… Athletes openly reveal these problems, probably because of the tab that Already considers the issue of mental health in our society it has been added that an athlete cannot display ‘weakness’.
But Cano-Windel prefers not to tell him so. “We should take this out of the subject of mental health. Of course, emotions are health and the problems that cause feelings like anxiety are within mental health, but that is. It’s an apprenticeship, you have to overcome the stigma of insanity, lack of control… One of the things that adds stigma to anxiety is that you can lose control. This means that anxiety so increases our physiological responses, our physical activity – which is also controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which is automatic – that it can give us the feeling that we are not in control. we have it, but our area of operation is called autonomic nervous system that is not voluntary, but we have control“.
The professor gives an example with digestion. “It’s done automatically, but one day you learn you can vomit and you don’t have control over digestion… you still have it because you have the same autonomic system that takes care of it, but Now you worry that’s not the best thing and you vomit, because you’re worried about out of control, you try to change your normal functioning – in your normal functioning you won’t take care of digestion – Because once you vomited and now you are afraid to vomit in public, well now you are afraid to eat It is a learned fear. Is this a mental health problem? We say that, but really I’ll speak emotional disturbance, problems that can be learned, and you can learn to control those emotional responses again.”
Not all emotions are viewed in the same way. “Anxiety carries a stigma and is worse than happiness, sadness or anger.. Athletes have no problem standing on the podium and crying when their country’s national anthem is played, a sentiment, it’s considered normal. Most people don’t mind getting angry and that’s fine, because you tell others that it hurts you and changes you. But with worry it’s ‘Oh, I’m going to take a test and if I worry too much and I can’t stand the worry, I still fail and What will people think if I can’t control myself and my anxiety?“Then there we entered a dead end”, Cano-Windel insisted.
There are signs that the expert points out, in that losing control, losing security. “are produced Considerations of anticipation of potential danger (a negative result, I will not measure), so there is physical changes and then Behaviour You start noticing that this is not what you wanted to begin with. “It was noticed already in the qualifying phase that gymnasts made unusual mistakes.” Sometimes I really feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders,” he said in his Instagram after that. And before leaving the team competition this Tuesday he made a faulty first jump off the colt. Behavior that Biles started at all. Wouldn’t want to, that evaluations are signs of concern.
How to avoid evaluation anxiety
Professors insist that training from an expert is essential. “Why should elite athletes have psychologists? Well, for him to train them, to train them not only to run, to jump when he is a jumper, but to train them in this, in the management of their thoughts, their feelings and their behavior“.
What’s a sports psychologist to do in a situation like this that we’ve got to engage with Simone Biles? Canoe-Windel is clear: “Don’t worry, You are too young and there are many olympics ahead. And this if you reinterpret it any other way, even if you failed a test or two, you still have many tests left, but even if you are not able to make changes now, nothing it happens. And you also have to think that as an athlete you are more important as a person. As an athlete you will live 20 years at best and as a person, 80 or 90. This is important to you because you have been preparing all your life to be a good athlete and do your best in the Olympic Games. but you should know there are more important things, like your well-being And many other things in life. “
The professor insists that what is being done like this is “Take the pressure off the situation, reinterpret it, and talk to it a lot To see what you think and correct thoughts. And use relaxation strategies: ‘Take a deep breath so you don’t speed up, for example, and we’re going to do an exercise here and I can see that you can do it just like you did at home recently. But did. that’s what you can do, training to try to better manage your thoughts, feelings, and behavior“.